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Bay du Nord may not be last oil project off Newfoundland, energy minister says

A man in a business suit sits in an open field.
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says Canada will still need oil production after 2050, even when it is no longer burned for energy. (Darryl Murphy/CBC)

Canada’s minister of natural resources does not agree that the controversial Bay du Nord mega project will be the last oil development off the coast of Newfoundland, and may prove to be the benchmark for similar projects in the future. 

“With Bay du Nord, from my perspective, that’s a good project because it is one of the lowest carbon-intensive-production barrels of oil that you are going to see in this country or in any other country around the world,” Wilkinson told CBC News. 

“I think the threshold for new projects is going to be can you actually effectively copy what Bay du Nord is doing, which is very low emissions and a target of getting to net zero by 2050.” 

Bay du Nord — which will drill for oil in deepsea waters about 500 kilometres east of St. John’s — received federal environmental approval this spring. It has yet to receive formal sanction from Norwegian energy giant Equinor and its partners. 

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said in April it will be difficult for future oil projects to meet increasingly stringent environmental demands of the federal government. 

But in an interview Tuesday, Wilkinson said moving Canada away from oil production will not happen quickly. 

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about the role of fossil fuels as we move forward to a lower-carbon future,” said Wilkinson, a former environment minister. 

“We are going to have to reduce the amount that we use, and we are going to have to stop burning it eventually in 2050, but there are still significant amounts of oil and gas we’re going to use in a net-zero future. We’re just not going to burn it — we’re going to use it for petrochemicals and waxes and lubricants and hydrogen.” 

WATCH | Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault speaking in April on conditions set on the development of Bay du Nord: 

bay du nord may not be last oil project off newfoundland energy minister says 1

Environment minister approves controversial Bay du Nord project

3 months ago

Duration 1:48

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says he’s approved the project on the condition that it reaches net-zero by 2050.

Wilkinson is in St. John’s this week for a meeting with federal, provincial and territorial energy ministers. He spoke to the St. John’s Board of Trade on Tuesday. 

Jim Dinn, leader of Newfoundland and Labrador’s New Democratic Party, blasted Wilkinson’s comments. 

“While we appreciate that the federal Minister acknowledged the fact that the world will be transitioning away from oil and gas consumption, it is frustrating to hear 30-year commitments for new oil developments,” Dinn said in a statement Wednesday. 

“Both the federal and provincial governments pay lip service to the need of transitioning.” 

Meanwhile, Wilkinson said Newfoundland and Labrador is well positioned with its other natural resources, particularly mineral extraction and wind energy. 

Wilkinson said copper, nickle, cobalt and lithium will all be needed as the world moves away from oil and gas, and the province has potential for all of them. 

“There is a huge opportunity, especially in remote and rural communities, to actually help us with that challenge, to mine those critical resources, but also to process them here in Canada,” he said. 

“Ultimately, we want to manufacture the batteries and and manufacture the electric vehicles and a range of other things. I would say the critical minerals piece is a generational economic opportunity.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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