Alex Pourbaix, president and chief executive officer of Cenovus Energy. Photo credit: Wil Andruschak © Postmedia Network Inc.
Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.
Alex Pourbaix, the chief executive officer and president of Cenovus Energy, doesn’t actively seek the limelight.
But the head of one of Canada’s largest and most innovative oil and gas producers believes now is the time to get the message out.
“I would normally not be so keen to be so visible in the media,” says Pourbaix, who took over the lead role for Cenovus in 2017. “But I really feel it’s important for Canadians to understand both the economic opportunity the industry has to offer, and what it’s doing right now in terms of sustainable and responsible development.”
This is especially important given the growing negativity surrounding the industry, often generated by voices outside Canada.
“I just can’t stay silent,” he adds.
Pourbaix notes he understands Canadians are concerned about climate change and the role fossil fuels such as oil and gas play.
“But it has got to the point where our industry must stand up and set the record straight.”
First off, demand for energy isn’t going away, he says. For the foreseeable future natural gas and oil remain indispensable sources. Secondly, Canadian oil is among the most responsibly produced in the world.
“Right now oil demand globally is over 100 million barrels a day, and it continues to grow,” he says.
While renewable energy is on the rise, those sources fall far short of the world’s need. Consequently, Canadian producers such as Cenovus are playing a pivotal role in meeting growing demand.
“If we were to stop all the production of Canadian oil tomorrow, the world would not consume one less drop of oil,” he says. Rather, that shortfall in supply would be absorbed by producers in nations with much poorer track records of sustainable energy development than Canada.
“Anybody who thinks the world is better off by Canada’s supply of oil being replaced by Russia, Nigeria or many of the countries in the Middle East, I would argue, does not have a firm grip on reality.”
The fact is Canada’s energy industry is constantly innovating to reduce its impact on the environment, Pourbaix explains. Cenovus is an industry leader in this respect, first and foremost with its pioneering SAGD (steam-assisted gravity drainage) technology, which reduces the amount of land that needs to be accessed to recover the oil.
As well, the company’s carbon footprint is continually shrinking.
“Our GHG (greenhouse gas) intensity of a barrel of oil is now slightly lower than the average intensity of a barrel of oil produced globally,” he says. “More than half the oil in the world has higher GHG intensity.
“We are among the most environmentally efficient oil and gas producers in North America,” he adds.
What’s more, the company is focused on building communities. Part and parcel to that is its commitment to build strong relationships with Indigenous communities. In fact, since 2009 Cenovus has spent more than $2.7 billion doing business with local Indigenous companies in its operating areas.
Cenovus, which is headquartered in Calgary, helps out at home, too.
“Our staff is incredibly community oriented,” he says, adding many of its staff in the city are deeply involved in various employee volunteering opportunities.
Among Cenovus’s more high-profile volunteer initiatives is sponsoring Cenovus Family Day at the Calgary Stampede, which includes a free pancake breakfast for about 25,000 Stampede visitors.
For Pourbaix, these efforts are a reflection of the good work the industry does.
“The energy sector has great stories to tell,” he says. “We just need to speak up and tell them.”
This feature was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.