Oil and Natural Gas

The oil and gas sector encompasses the exploration, extraction, refining, and distribution of fossil fuels. It plays a central role in meeting global energy demand for transportation, heating, power generation and industrial processes.

Oil and Natural Gas: Tradition Meets Innovation as Canada’s Energy Industry Continues to Evolve with New Opportunities

All forms of energy are needed to meet global demand

Global population growth and urbanization of developing countries mean oil and natural gas resources will be in demand for many years to come. And as the energy industry expands and develops new energy sources, we’ll fuel even more bright futures across Canada.

Did you know?

Oil and gas remains a vital component of a reliable and affordable energy future, even as momentum for other energy sources increases.

International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2023

Three streams – many career paths

From unlocking oil and natural gas resources to transporting and selling by-products and end products, the oil and natural gas industry’s three segments work together, creating a robust industry.


Upstream is the exploration and production phase. This is where we find oil and natural  gas resources and get them out of the ground.


Midstream is when oil and natural gas is processed, stored and transported to sites where it will be refined into useful products.


Downstream is when it is refined into the end-products like fuel, lubricants and petrochemicals used in plastics.

Exploration and Production 

The exploration and production (E&P) sub-sector focuses on identifying underground rock formations containing oil or natural gas. New technologies developed in recent years make the production of oil and natural gas from hard-to-reach reserves much more viable—widespread use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, for example, unlocks crude oil and natural gas from shale and tight reservoirs.

Did you know?

Oil sands recovery requires many workers in a variety of roles, including engineers, technicians, Indigenous relations advisors, procurement coordinators and health and safety advisors.

Oil sands

Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water, clay, and bitumen—a heavy oil that must be converted to crude oil before refineries can produce gasoline and other petroleum products. Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) is the most common method for extracting bitumen, using two horizontal wellbores. Steam is injected into the upper wellbore and softened bitumen is pumped to the surface from the lower wellbore.


Offshore activity in Canada explores oil and natural gas in oceans and other large bodies of water with impressive rigs reaching thousands of metres beneath the seafloor. Canada’s offshore industry is primarily based in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. Offshore projects require many specialized support vessels for operations at sea, including large oil shuttle tankers, floating drilling/production platforms, fireboats, supply vessels and subsea facilities.

Oil and natural gas services

The oil and natural gas services sub-sector supports the upstream oil and natural gas industry during all phases of exploration and production, including drilling, testing, completing, maintaining and reclaiming oil and natural gas wells. Service companies provide a number of activities, products and services critical to the integrity and safety of oil and natural gas operations. Oil and natural gas services is the largest sub-sector in the oil and natural gas industry in terms of employment, employing thousands of workers across Canada. 


Canada has more than 800,000 km of pipeline as part of a transportation system that includes pumping stations and secondary storage facilities. Getting oil and natural gas to the next destination takes innovation, skills and bright minds. Four different types of pipelines make the system work—gathering, feeder, transmission and distribution pipelines.

Upgraders and processing plants

An upgrader is a facility that upgrades bitumen into synthetic crude oil for easier transport to oil refineries. The natural gas that comes out of the ground is typically a mixture of natural gas liquids—methane, ethane, propane, butane and pentanes—water vapour, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and other gases. A processing plant separates the natural gas liquids and removes other substances from the gas stream.

Working in oil and natural gas

The established energy industry remains critical to the country’s energy system and economic well-being; at the same time, it’s an asset to support lower-carbon energy sources. Canada’s energy industry is becoming increasingly integrated and so is its workforce. Foundational technology, equipment, skills and expertise are being expanded and applied in innovative ways to develop new low-carbon energy sources and deploy emissions-reduction technologies. Many of the qualifications required by Canada’s emerging energy sectors already exist within the established energy sectors.

This means oil and natural gas workers may need to acquire additional upskilling and reskilling through short, competency-based learning opportunities, such as those offered through micro-credential programs.

Working in oil and natural gas is more diverse than you may think, with a variety of roles in fields such as administration, labour, trades, engineering and more. There’s potential for every skill set.