Bitumen Beyond Combustion in a Net Zero Alberta

November, 2023


In March 2023, Navius Research completed a study titled “Impacts and Opportunities in Alberta’s Net Zero Energy System”. This study evaluated future possible energy systems that achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in Alberta and provided insight into key uncertainties and opportunities for Alberta’s energy system in a net zero future.

One of the capabilities added to gTech for this study was the ability to simulate bitumen beyond combustion. This involved adding the ability to simulate different grades of crude oil being used to produce different refined products, by adding greater disaggregation of crude oil by grade, greater disaggregation of refined petroleum products, and adding a new refinery module to the model. Adding this functionality to gTech had a significant impact on the role of Alberta’s oil sands sector in a net zero future.

Alberta Innovates commissioned Navius to prepare a memo that summarizes the key assumptions and findings of this modeling addition.  Highlights are provided below.


  • When net zero policy is simulated, demand for gasoline and diesel declines significantly by 2050, while demand for asphalt lubricants and petrochemicals remains.
  • Since heavier crudes (like bitumen) have a comparative advantage in producing products in the range for which demand remains in a net zero future, refinery input changes from mostly light oil in 2020 to more heavy oil and bitumen by 2050 under net zero policy.
  • This has a significant impact on the role of oil sands in a net zero future, and results suggest that oil sands may be the “last barrel standing” in 2050 under net zero policy.

Click above to download the memo.

Click above to view Alberta Innovates’ website, featuring the memo.

Download our memo or visit Alberta Innovates’ website.

This analysis was commissioned and funded by Alberta Innovates.

To learn more about this research, please contact Brianne Riehl.

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