Oil barrels (illustration); Source: Equinor

Canada ranked as preferred global oil supplier with fossil fuels carving a place in energy transition, shows Ipsos study

Euronext Paris-listed market research company Ipsos has asked respondents in 28 countries around the world to complete a ranked ballot of eight oil-producing nations, as part of a larger study on public views on energy, to find out which countries are preferred suppliers of imported oil. While Canada got the highest ranking as a preferred global oil supplier, the poll also indicated that oil and natural gas have a role to play on the energy transition stage as long as they reduce emissions.

Oil barrels (illustration); Source: Equinor

Ipsos’ Context Energy study – conducted between 18 November and 6 December 2022 – interviewed a sample of 24,014 global respondents in 28 countries. The eight oil-producing nations, which were put on the list are Canada, China, Mexico, the Middle East, Norway, Russia, the United States and Venezuela. Ipsos reported on Wednesday, 5 April 2023, that Canada was mentioned most often in the top three preferred suppliers of imported oil and the country’s average ranking was the highest in the study, followed closely by Norway and the United States. 

The collected data reveals a clear trend favouring the geographically closest supplier being chosen first on the ballot, as among European respondents, Norway received 46 per cent of the first-choice selections, and respondents from countries in the Asia-Pacific region selected the Middle East first 31 per cent of the time. In addition, this trend was evident in North America, where Canadians and Americans prefer each others’ oil, over others, with 55 per cent of Americans picking Canada as their first choice for oil import, while 57 per cent of Canadians chose the U.S. first.

While geographic favourability plays a part in the final results of this study, the data also shows another trend toward choosing suppliers based on shared values, such as democratic practices and against this backdrop Canada rose through the rankings, as it was selected second nearly a quarter of the time (23 per cent), more than any other supplier and six points ahead of the next supplier (the U.S. at 17 per cent).

Percentage of time each country was ranked in the top three globally and by region; Source: Ipsos
Percentage of time each country was ranked in the top three globally and by region; Source: Ipsos

According to Ipsos, the picture being painted becomes even clearer when looking at how often each supplier was ranked in the top three, as Canada was in the top three globally more than any other oil-producing country. In North America, seven out of ten North Americans (71 per cent) chose Canada as one of their top three preferred oil suppliers. 

On the other hand, European respondents put Canada in their top three 60 per cent of the time and the U.S. in their top three suppliers 53 per cent of the time while only Norway (71 per cent) was ranked higher in Europe’s top three suppliers. Additionally, Canada performed well in the Asia-Pacific region with 58 per cent, putting Canada in their top three. 

Which countries are the least desirable oil suppliers?

However, Ipsos’ study also shows the least desirable suppliers of oil, as Venezuela, Russia, and China were ranked by respondents in the top three least desirable ones often. These countries were most often selected by their neighbours and other countries with more authoritarian leaders.

Meanwhile, Mexico was ranked in the top three less often in South America than Canada and the U.S. despite its proximity. Ipsos underscores that people are becoming more conscious of where their oil comes from, as increasing geopolitical instability permeates the world.

In line with this, the study outlines that a slim majority (52 per cent) of global respondents agree that countries that import oil and natural gas should only import them from democratic countries like Canada and the U.S. rather than from countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, 28 per cent disagree that oil and natural gas should only be imported from democratic countries while 20 per cent do not know what to pick in this case. While this sentiment was highest in Europe, where nearly six in 10 (59 per cent) respondents agreed, it was closely followed by North America (53 per cent).

Is there a place for oil & gas in the energy transition?

Moreover, Ipsos’ study underlines that 46 per cent of global respondents believe an energy transition can include fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, provided emissions are reduced, compared to 30 per cent who think the energy transition cannot include fossil fuels, while 25 per cent do not know enough to say.

The study also points out that six in ten (59 per cent) global respondents say oil and natural gas can be used if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions through technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS), while 22 per cent disagree and 19 per cent do not know.

“The study reveals that in times of energy insecurity and transition, global citizens recognise oil is still needed, and those who do import oil want to get it from Canadian producers,” concluded Ipsos.

Emission cuts reinforce Canada’s oil supplier ranking

In a separate statement, Pathways Alliance, an alliance of Canada’s six largest oil sands companies, said the results of the study suggested that actions taken by Canada’s oil and gas sector to decarbonise production, including an ambitious net-zero goal for oil sands operations, position the country well to play “a bigger role meeting global energy security needs for many years to come.”

Kendall Dilling, Pathways Alliance President, remarked: “Geopolitical instability has many around the world more conscious of where the energy they need comes from. We’re focused on helping Canada meet its climate goals with an aggressive plan to reduce emissions while ensuring we play an increasing role in meeting the world’s energy security needs.”

Pathways Alliance's plan for a three-phased approach to net-zero; Source: Pathways Alliance
Pathways Alliance’s plan for a three-phased approach to net-zero; Source: Pathways Alliance

The alliance claims that Ipsos’ study shows most people around the world want the oil and gas they need to come from democratic countries such as Canada while support for the continued use of oil and gas is strong as long as efforts are being made to reduce emissions through technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

“This reinforces that North American energy is desired worldwide and if we work together and with governments to advance our climate goals, we can increase the global market share of responsibly produced energy – something that is good for the climate as well as jobs and economic growth on both sides of the border,” added Dilling.

Based on Pathways Alliance’s statement, forecasts such as the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook Stated Policies Scenario show oil and gas will be needed for decades, emphasising why “any realistic plan to meet climate targets must have a collaborative approach between industry and government to reduce emissions from oil and gas operations, without forcing cuts in production.”

To this end, Pathways Alliance is advancing a plan to reduce absolute emissions from production by 22 million tonnes annually by 2030 and achieve net-zero operational emissions by 2050. With anticipated co-funding support from Canadian governments, the alliance has announced plans to invest about $24 billion before 2030 in the first phase of its plan with approximately $16.5 billion supporting a proposed carbon capture and storage network in northeastern Alberta while the remaining $7.6 billion investment is planned on major emissions reduction projects and technologies.

Pathways Alliance's three-phased approach to achieve reduced emissions; Source: Pathways Alliance
Pathways Alliance’s three-phased approach to achieve reduced emissions; Source: Pathways Alliance

While Pathways Alliance works with governments on the necessary regulatory and co-funding frameworks that will allow for several billions of dollars of investment in its foundational carbon capture and storage project, approximately $500 million has already been spent on early work on the CCS project and other Pathways Alliance member company operational emissions reduction projects and technologies to meet the 2030 goal.

Initially, the alliance is focusing on building a foundational carbon capture and storage network in northern Alberta with a proposed carbon transportation line to gather captured CO2 from more than 20 oil sands facilities and move it to a proposed hub in the Cold Lake area of Alberta for safe underground storage. The line would also be available to other industries in the region interested in capturing and storing CO2. 

Pathways Alliance's foundational CCS project; Source: Pathways Alliance
Pathways Alliance’s foundational CCS project; Source: Pathways Alliance

“No one solution will get us to net-zero oil production. We need multiple parallel pathways. These include improvements to the current process as well as emerging technologies. Other avenues include electrification, fuel substitution and improved energy efficiency,” highlighted Pathways Alliance.