St. John’s, a beautiful and dynamic coastal city surrounded by notable natural sites, is a center of innovation for Canada’s natural resources and energy sector and is leading the way on reducing the industry’s environmental footprint.
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When Charlene Johnson needs a little time away from her desk, she heads to Signal Hill National Historic Site — the location where the world’s first wireless transatlantic message was received — which offers views of St. John’s dramatic, rocky shoreline. As CEO of Energy NL, known until recently as the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industry Association (NOIA), Johnson has a keen appreciation of the oceanscape’s treasures — whether that’s the beauty that draws visitors to this part of Canada or the natural resources hidden beneath.
One of the most exciting initiatives she’s helping to coordinate is the Bay du Nord project, which will be the furthest offshore oilfield in the world. “But what’s most exciting about it is it’s going to be the lowest carbon emitting oil and gas project in Canada,” she said.
Johnson’s comment hints at an underappreciated aspect of the region — that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and in particular St. John’s, is a center of innovation for Canada’s natural resources and energy sector.
“While we are an oil and gas industry association, we are very focused on lowering the carbon footprint within our industry. We’re also taking the learnings from the skills and expertise developed in this industry to transfer to other industries and help our province be net-zero [greenhouse gas emissions] by 2050,” Johnson said.
Examples of initiatives that are pushing this agenda forward are a major oil company switching its crane operations from diesel to electric, vessels that support offshore operations transitioning to hybrid engines, and companies figuring out how to do more of their work onshore versus offshore, which cuts down on offshore flights and improves safety. The association’s members also do lots of work in digitalization, remotely operated vehicles (ROV), and robotics to streamline operations, and are looking at how to use hydroelectric and wind power.
Energy NL represents companies that work both directly and indirectly in the oil and gas sector — logistics field providers, supply vessels, companies covering health and safety, and suppliers of machinery and equipment, as well as law firms, placement firms, restaurants, hotels, and others. The association also collaborates with other sectors — especially tech and environment — including working closely with environmental association Econext on the net-zero by 2050 initiative. This wide-ranging membership and active collaboration help Energy NL advocate for the promotion and development of oil and gas offshore in the province, while encouraging eco-friendly innovation.
“We are always trying to advance our industry,” Johnson said. “Advocacy is a big part of what we do: education awareness, talking about the importance of the industry to our members, but also to the entire province.”
Enhancing Local Life
An example of the way the industry affects the province’s community is the boost provided by the approximately $11 billion in capital expenditure represented by the Bay du Nord project.
“When we see prosperity like this, it not only creates a buzz in our industry, but it creates a buzz throughout the entire province,” she said. Everything from restaurants to philanthropy gets a bump.
And Johnson enjoys being at the helm of an organization that can help achieve that kind of enhancement in local life, particularly because of how proud she is of the place she calls home. “It’s a beautiful place to work,” Johnson said. “There are very unique stores and restaurants, and a vibrant arts community. There’s just a wonderful, family-friendly feel about this place.”
Johnson notes that there are a wide variety of attractions that visitors, such as a delegate attending one of many international events hosted in the city, can enjoy. Along with Signal Hill, a popular destination is Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site, the most easterly point in the Western world. Visitors also enjoy the rocky shore at Shoe Cove Beach and Topsail Beach and explore the area’s natural beauty on its many hiking trails.
Johnson speaks exuberantly about St. John’s “exquisite scenery,” but also sees it as an open, cosmopolitan place. This is just one of the reasons that the city is such a popular destination for international conferences: Everyone is welcome in St. John’s. Johnson ticks off some of the other benefits of visiting, working, and living in the city, such as “the vibe of downtown and its dynamic culture, cuisine, art scene, and craft breweries. There’s something here for everyone.”
Given St. John’s record of attracting international events looking to tap into the city’s intellectual capital, this statement is especially true for those looking to collaborate with an innovative oil and gas sector.
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For more information about Destination Canada’s work within priority economic sectors and how they can benefit business events, visit Destination Canada Business Events.
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