Nfld. & Labrador

As criticism of Bay du Nord mounts, Noia is rebranding

The association representing Newfoundland and Labrador’s oil and gas industry has removed references to fossil fuels in its rebrand, but hasn’t backed down on support for projects such as Bay du Nord.

Noia rebrands as Energy N.L., as part of push to broaden focus

Energy N.L. CEO Charlene Johnson says the rebrand is part of a strategy to broaden the focus of the association to other energy sectors like hydro and wind. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

The association representing Newfoundland and Labrador's oil industry has removed references to fossil fuels in its rebrand, but hasn't backed down on support for oil and gas projects such as Bay du Nord.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association, which has about 500 members, has changed its name to Energy N.L. with a new mandate to "facilitate member participation" in the energy industry by "advocating for sustainable development."

At an event to announce the rebrand on Tuesday, Energy N.L. CEO Charlene Johnson said the move is part of a strategy to broaden the association's focus beyond the oil and gas industry.

"We understand that the energy evolution is occurring," Johnson said. "We have members that, while they're in oil and gas, they're also in renewable projects, wind projects, and they have the skills and expertise that are easily transferable to the renewable sector."

The rebranding follows similar moves by some oil and gas companies to emphasize sustainability initiatives in branding as concerns about fossil fuel emissions mount. Equinor, the company behind Bay du Nord, shed the name Statoil in 2018 to reflect its identity as "a broad energy company," according to a statement at the time.

Energy N.L. not abandoning oil and gas

Energy N.L. has hired Robin Kieley, a former policy advisor with the Atlantic Canada Energy Office, as manager of sustainable energy initiatives, and will hold supplier development sessions about energy sources beyond oil and gas. Johnson said the organization is also having discussions with Fortis and N.L. Hydro about renewable energy.

Despite those initiatives, Johnson said the association is "definitely not" abandoning the oil and gas industry.

"Oil and gas is going to be around for decades," she said.

Energy N.L. board chair James Parmiter says members urged the association to expand its mandate. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Energy N.L. board chair James Parmiter said members urged the association to expand its mandate while retaining its advocacy for the oil and gas industry.

"We always have and we always will be a strong voice for responsible oil and gas development."

Bay du Nord in flux

Equinor and its partners are proposing to develop the massive oil field in the Flemish Pass, about 500 kilometres east of St. John's.

Their plan is to use a floating production, storage and offloading vessel, commonly known as an FPSO, capable of producing up to 200,000 barrels daily. The provincial government has supported the project, noting that it will create jobs and generate revenue for the province.

The federal government delayed its final approval of the project in early March, at the time saying it needed more time to determine if the project would cause "significant adverse environmental effects."

Last summer, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called on governments to immediately halt new fossil fuel projects to avoid "irreversible" climate impacts.

Though environmental advocacy groups have called on the government to reject Bay du Nord, Johnson said the project is an example of the kind of "environmentally sound" offshore project that is still needed as the world transitions away from fossil fuels.

"If all oil and gas projects were as good as Bay du Nord, carbon emissions would decrease drastically," she said.

'Full speed in the wrong direction'

Angela Carter, a University of Waterloo political science professor, told CBC News that Bay du Nord is contradictory to Newfoundland and Labrador's climate goals.

"This Bay du Nord project is a project that is throwing fuel on the climate fire," Carter said. "It's taking us in the wrong direction, full speed in the wrong direction."

Angela Carter, a University of Waterloo political science professor, says the Bay du Nord project is 'throwing fuel on the climate fire.' (CBC)

Carter spoke as part of a virtual panel of academics and activists against the project, organized by the Sierra Club. By pushing ahead on Bay du Nord, Carter said, the province is missing an opportunity to capitalize on a global energy transition.

"That means we are going to be at the mercy of changes and we know what this looks like," she said. "This already happened with the cod fisheries. We should be well aware that if we're seeing dangerous signals like this, we need to start change now."

Carter said Newfoundland and Labrador can use the transition from the fishery to the oil industry as a blueprint for the transition from the oil industry to renewable energy.

"All of those things that we've done for decades to build the oil sector, now we need to do that but for the transition and making sure that workers are the focus here, workers and communities."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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