The past two years have been brutal, the present in bleak, and profound change is waiting on the horizon. Such is the past, present and future for Canada's oil and gas sector.

In a speech to 400 industry members on Monday, Marie-José Nadeau, chair of the World Energy Council, chose to focus on the latter and give her impressions about what lies ahead.

Based on her travels around the world, she said the world is on a path to decarbonization, which will create deep structural changes in production and consumption of energy, specifically oil and gas. 

'We see a range of carbon pricing schemes emerging' -  Marie-José Nadeau, World Energy Council

"The energy sector as a whole is entering uncharted territory," said Nadeau at an event in Calgary. "The push for decarbonization is putting the leaders of our industry, particularly the Canadian oilsands industry, to a very difficult challenge and this challenge they must not resist."

In particular, companies need to increase productivity, reduce costs, implement new technologies, reduce their environmental footprint, and improve sustainability. If not, there will be financial consequences to industry and government. 

Marie-José Nadeau suggests the oil and gas industry faces the inescapable fact that decarbonization will change the energy landscape1:54

Nadeau is not proclaiming the end of the oil and gas industry, but rather suggesting the one certainty right now in the volatile sector is the inescapable fact that decarbonization will change the energy landscape, including traditional business models.

"We see a range of carbon pricing schemes emerging at national and regional levels," she said. "As well as shadow carbon pricing for corporations."

Specifically focusing on oil and gas, she says the energy mix is already starting to change. The cost of renewables is declining, electricity storage is improving, and car makers are finding success running vehicles on electricity, liquefied natural gas and hydrogen.

The Canadian oil and gas sector expects to meet climate change targets with new technology. While advances are occurring, some industry members suggest companies could do a better job.

"The technology cycle is extremely long in the oil and gas industry," said John Gorman with Halliburton Canada. "We haven't done a good job of adopting technology that does exist."

In addition, many companies are trimming their research and development budgets as they slash costs during the current downturn.