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From the monthly archives: September 2010
Northern Opportunities: A Pretty Good Deal
Ryan Gilmore was frustrated with high school and considered dropping out. Then he learned of the dual credit programs offered by the Northern Opportunities… [read more]
Open to Everyone
Nicole Schartner says she is glad to be in the Power Engineering program at GPRC (Grande Prairie Regional College) Fairview Campus not only because she… [read more]
Fort St. John: Energized & Ready to Roll
Priding itself on being a family friendly community, Fort St. John still manages to find plenty of room for industry and business. “There’s tons… [read more]
Education Expands its Role
With an increased labour shortage looming, governments and educators in the West are scrambling to find measures to offset what could be, and in some cases… [read more]
When his ‘dream job’ became available with the resignation of Blair Lekstrom, Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett jumped on the chance to wrestle with the Kraken of BC politics – the energy portfolio.
Not only is he confident he can manage the many-armed monster, he is excited by the prospect of sinking his teeth into the province’s energy issues. NWB interviewed Bennett to find out what that means for this region.
NWB: Can you give our readers a bit of your history as an introduction?
BB: I’m 60 years old, have been married for 36 years to the same woman, and I have two grown sons…one works in the mining industry and the other in the tourism industry.
I owned fly and fishing lodges when I was a younger man, worked in that industry for a long time as an employee, and then bought my own places and worked in them.
When I was 39 years old and went back to school and got a law degree at Queens, moved out West from Ontario – that’s about 20 years ago now. I practiced law in Cranbrook until I found myself involved in provincial politics and was elected for the first time in 2001.
NWB: What are you passionate about?
BB: I’m a rural guy. I’ve lived in small towns my whole life. I got into politics because of my beliefs and passion for rural issues.
I am very, very passionate about the resource industries in the province and I think sometimes the importance of resource industries is underestimated. If we didn’t have the oil and gas, the mining and the forestry industries in this province, and in particular with the forest industry being somewhat weakened these days because of the US economy, if we didn’t have the oil and gas and mining, we would not be able to keep our hospitals open, our schools open and we wouldn’t be able to be sending folks all the support that they need.
I don’t think that we can overestimate the importance of making sure that government does everything government can do to create a competitive, positive investment climate in the province. It’s absolutely critical in my opinion.
NWB: What about this portfolio appeals to you most?
BB: I have been at this business 10 years now and I should tell you this has always been the job I wanted the most. Everybody internally, like the premier and my cabinet colleagues and many, many others in the province, have known that.
I was Minister of State for Mining a couple of years back, around 2005-2007, but this is the portfolio I always wanted to have. Of course, Dick Neufeld had a very firm grasp on it for many years and there wasn’t an opportunity until Blair packed it in.
I stay in touch with both (previous Energy Ministers) Blair (Lekstrom) and Richard (Neufeld). I met with both when I was in the Northeast and I will continue to use Richard in particular, as a resource for local information and just information on the industry and so forth. He’s a very knowledgeable guy.
NWB: What challenges does this portfolio bring for you?
BB: From the minister’s point of view, the major challenge is just in the diversity and the sheer volume of the issues you have to deal with. You’ve got everything from independent power projects, to run-of-river projects on the west coast, to wind projects around Dawson Creek, to the issues around the shale gas industry in the Horn River Basin and Montney, Liard, Cordova Embayment.
They have their own special issues and you’ve got issues around Site C. Just that one file alone would keep most ministers busy. I do have a Minister of State for Mining, which is a big help, but I’m ultimately responsible for that as well.
Specific to the oil and gas industry, I really think that although it looks like we’re booming – we’re selling lots of unconventional gas tenures – we’re really going to have another good year this year, I am concerned that with the discovery of shale gas in other parts of the continent closer to the major markets, and I’m talking Quebec, Pennsylvania and New York, BC can’t afford to let its guard down.
We need to be competitive. We need to make sure that we attract the level of investment that it takes to keep the industry going and you couple that with a low gas price and we just need to be vigilant. We need to make sure that we don’t let Alberta or some other jurisdiction pass us by.
NWB: Is there anything you need to be looking at in that regard?
BB: I’m always watching our Royalty Credit Programs. We’ve got deep drilling, summer drilling, infrastructure…but I’m always keeping an eye on our Royalty Credit Programs to ensure that we are doing what’s necessary to provide the encouragement, the incentive to the industry.
Number two; I’m always looking at our regulatory system for the industries to make sure it is responsive. Governments that are known to have a slow approval process and to be overly bureaucratic – investment money tends to flow away from those jurisdictions.
We have to stay on top of that. We have to make sure that our Oil and Gas Commission maintains its competitive advantage over other jurisdictions.
We are told by the oil and gas industry we’re the best place in Canada to invest right now and we need to make sure we stay that way; that goes to the regulatory process, it goes to your royalty credits, and I think it goes to your taxation – we have the second lowest corporate taxes in the country; we’ve got the lowest personal income taxes in the country – and beyond the specifics that I’ve mentioned, it also goes, I think, to the general attitude of the province toward industry and toward investment.
Money will move really quickly, we know that from the mining industry, and so our province needs to make sure that we keep the welcome sign up for industry while at the same time, respecting the folks that live on the ground close to all this activity.
NWB: Energy and Mines is one of the more important portfolios for the Peace. What do you bring to the table?
BB: I live in the southeast part of the province in Cranbrook. It is a natural resource extraction based economy. We have most of BC’s coal mining in my riding. We’ve got all of Teck Coal’s metallurgical coal assets here, we’ve got a forest industry here and a strong tourism industry as well.
We’re quite dependent, ironically, on the oil and gas industry in Calgary for our real estate development/golf course/ski resort development industry. That’s a big part of our economy here as well as resource extraction, but that part of our economy is also tied to resource extraction in the sense that when the patch is doing well, our economy here seems to do well so I’ve got a natural connection to Alberta because of where I live and how interconnected we are economically and socially.
NWB: Following on the heels of two locals, and in light of the historical sense of disconnect people in this region have felt, is there anything you can say to alleviate any fears that the needs of the region might be less-well represented by someone who doesn’t live here?
BB: I understand and empathize totally with the sense of alienation that people in the northeast of the province feel being the only area of the province that’s east of the Rocky Mountains. We feel, even though we’re west of the Rockies, I can tell you, and Blair Lekstrom and I have talked about this many times over the years…my constituents feel just as alienated as they do in the Northeast.
It’s easy to get forgotten way over here. People don’t know where Cranbrook is. They don’t even know we have a coal industry. So, I have some understanding because of where I live and because of my own personal background of having grown up in small towns and always lived in rural areas.
The first thing I did was go up to the Northeast after getting the appointment. Basically what I did was I went up on a relationship building tour. It wasn’t so much a tour of the oil and gas industry, we did a little bit of that, it was more a tour to talk to mayors and regional district directors and business people and Chambers because I know there would be some anxiety, understandable I think, that here’s this guy that’s not from the Northeast and we’ve always had the minister from the Northeast.
I think I was received well and I think it’s my commitment to rural issues and my commitment to work closely with people and be collaborative that I think will be of some comfort to the people that live in the Northeast.
Just because I don’t live there doesn’t’ mean I don’t care about them. I’m an outdoorsman, I hunt, I fish, I snowmobile, I own a quad, I cut my own firewood, I heat my house with wood. I’m that kind of a person.
There’s not very many provincial politicians who still hunt actively and live the lifestyle that I live and it’s a lifestyle that people in the Northeast are very familiar with, so when they get to meet me they usually feel pretty comfortable. I think that’s important to people.
I have to be there on a regular basis. I also have to make sure that when we have an individual or a group from the Northeast that expresses concerns about whatever it might be…we have to take those issues very, very seriously. We have to show people that yes the gas business is important to the people of BC, and yes we get lots of royalties from it, but it can’t happen in a vacuum – it happens where people live…we just created some new setback rules and that’s the kind of thing we need to do.
I met with the Peace River Regional District…and they went around the table and listed things they were interested in. They mentioned these landfill sites that the industry needs.
You’ve got companies competing in that business, and competition is good, but shouldn’t government, both provincial and local government maybe stand back and say, “how many of these sites do we really need”, independent of what companies themselves want to do in terms of competing with each other, “and is there a more strategic way to site them”.
Those are very practical, useful suggestions from local government and that’s the kind of stuff I want my staff to follow up on.
NWB: What’s your view on industrial transportation issues?
BB: This industry’s hard on transportation infrastructure. As long as this industry is as vibrant as it is, and active as it is, today, there’s going to be an ongoing need for major transportation investment and I think we’ve seen it in spades from our government and I think you will continue to see that.
CN and Ridley (Terminals) is something I have a particular interest in because of my former job as Minister of State for Mining.
We absolutely have to do everything we can to improve the rail transportation out to the coast. I think you’re going to see, if the price of metallurgical coal stays up, which it appears it’s going to, I think you’re going to see some bigger players moving into the Northeast, which will mean more coal being transported by rail.
The other part of transportation…that’s absolutely critical is the pipelines that people are arguing about right now. You’ve got liquid natural gas that is going to be a critical part of the growth of our industry.
When I was up in the Northeast I heard from people how important it is to get a pipeline out to the west coast and a plant out there somewhere – that’s going to change the face of the gas industry and should help shore up the price of gas.
And then there’s the issue of oil coming through from Alberta as well.
NWB: What do you see as the major issues for resource industries over the next year?
BB: Number one, the economy in China; number two, the price of commodities; and I think investor confidence, given the situation with the US economy.
NWB: What do you see as the future of energy generation in this area?
BB: The Northeast is today a key region in terms of energy development because of the oil and gas, because of the mining that takes place there, and because of the Peace River system. Site C will add to that. If Site C gets its environmental approvals it will add 900 megawatts to the importance of energy creation.
You’ve also got one major wind farm that’s up and running and another one that’s in the works.
You’ve got tremendous potential for wind energy. It’s a place that has a lot of natural attributes so I think you will see a lot of electricity generated.
I think there’s a very good chance that Site C will succeed and go ahead and I think you’ll see a growth in wind as well. I also think there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll see the gas industry continue to grow.
This liquid natural gas potential is absolutely gigantic. We’ve got the natural gas and right now our biggest customers are the US and eastern Canada.
If we can liquefy it and ship it to Asia, it just changes the face of the industry because it’s priced differently than the gas that we sell to the US. It should give companies a better margin, which will encourage them to invest more and explore more.
NWB: Is there anything else you would like to say to people in the Northeast?
BB: I’m very accessible and I hope they will pick the phone up and call me if they have a concern, or send me an email. I don’t think the fact that I live in Cranbrook should make any difference to people in the Northeast in terms of how responsive I am as minister and how interested I am in the area.
I’m a rural guy just like the previous two ministers. I come from a region that is very, very similar to the Northeast. We’re right beside Alberta.
We have all the same sales tax issues and all the same issues with Alberta businesses coming and doing business where I live in the East Kootneys.
I look forward to doing the job and it’s a honour to have the portfolio and I hope to be around for a long time.
Alberta Advanced Education and Technology announced the second round of innovation voucher recipients in March of this year. Sixteen companies in the Peace Region received either $10,000 or $50,000 amounting to $320,000 in total.
“The foundation of our province’s next generation economy lies in new ideas, new companies and new industries,” Doug Horner, Minister of Advanced Education and Technology said when the awards were announced.
“It is in the early days that many promising small businesses struggle to get the resources they need to take them to the next level, which is where the Innovation Voucher Pilot Program can make a real difference.”
The Alberta Innovation Voucher Pilot Program through an approved, non-profit service providers such as the CRI (Centre for Research & Innovation), assists small businesses and entrepreneurs at the pre-commercial stage, where the majority of new businesses fail. Vouchers can be put towards up to 75 per cent of the cost of specialized services such as labs, fabrication centers or intellectual property managers.
Of the 16 Peace Region recipients, the majority are at the initial research and development stage. They have an amazing idea and now they need to develop a prototype to see if it’s functional. However, some recipients are ready for the marketplace or are poised to make that leap.
Bullet Solutions Inc. of Grande Prairie has developed a new and innovative sand line heater. This product is already being sold to the oil and gas industry. Bullet plans to utilize their $10,000 voucher for R&D on an expanded model line for greater marketability.
David Forseth of Cherry Point has developed an environmentally friendly, flameless, self-powered, hydronic heating system for the natural gas industry. His $10,000 voucher monies will be spent on certification; both CSA and Intrinsically Safe. However, even though he has this final hurtle to leap, Forseth is presently negotiating a lucrative partnership agreement.
Intel Energy Systems Ltd. of Grovedale, provides environmentally friendly power generation systems. They will be utilizing their $10,000 Innovation Voucher for final engineering and manufacturing prior to product launch.
Almost a quarter of this round’s recipients are at or near the point of commercialization. This means that as more innovations move into the marketplace and start to generate dollars for their inventors.
Across the province, 204 vouchers worth almost $6 million were awarded. Of these, 98 were awarded in Calgary, 70 in Edmonton, 16 in the Peace Region, seven in both Medicine Hat and Red Deer, and three in Lloydminster and Lethbridge. Considering the comparable sizes, the Peace Region appears to be out performing the rest of the province.
For more information on this article, or to contact The Centre for Research & Innovation call (780) 539-2807, toll free at 1-877-539-2808, email info@TheCRI.ca or visit our website at www.TheCRI.ca .
Fort McMurray has again taken on the role it began with. It started as a resource dependent trading post where people came to win their fortunes, and today people are flocking to the area hoping to make their mark in the oil sands.
While today’s challenges might have a different face than those of 200 years ago, people come determined to meet them head on for the chance at claiming their share of the area’s resources.
“We’re rapidly growing predicated on the industrial expansion of the oil sands resource, but nonetheless, the people that are coming to the community are coming from all over Canada and, in fact, increasingly from all over the world,” said Mayor Melissa Blake.
“We are the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB), which means we consume 68,454 square kilometers of geography. We cover 10 rural communities, one urban centre, being Fort McMurray. It’s roughly a 10th of the province, by mass, adjacent to the Wood Buffalo National Park.”
The fantastic growth of the area has often outpaced the communities’ ability to provide the necessary infrastructure and yet it has also added a rich mix of multiculturalism to the historical cultures of First Nation and aboriginal populations from the region.
Like many other northern communities, the average age of the population is young – in this case, said Blake, about 32 years old. There is also a large part of the population that is transient; coming in to work and disappearing on days off.
Blake estimates that of the region’s 103,000 people, the shadow population accounts for 26,000 of them, with 73,000 of them living in Fort McMurray itself.
“Families do quite well in the urban centre where there is the young population,” Blake said. With just shy of 20 per cent under the age of 19, the community has worked to meet the needs and expectations of younger families she added.
“We’re reasonably equipped for the young families, but the benefits spill over to older people as well,” said Blake.
Recreational opportunities are plentiful year-round and include both indoor and outdoor activities.
Trails, parks and nearby forests provide a diverse playground and the newly completed MacDonald Island, Suncore Community Leisure Centre hits the mark for just about everyone in the community in some way or another, boasts Blake, and she isn’t exaggerating.
The facility’s list of amenities is long and includes arenas, mini-ice, leisure pond, curling rink, aquatic centre, banquet and meeting rooms, indoor field houses, indoor running track, fitness centre, racquetball and squash courts, golf simulator, The Upper Deck Lounge, concessions, child-minding centre and indoor playground.
“We’ve been adding new schools as we’ve added new population,” said Blake. “Because of our multiculturalism and because we are approaching critical mass in the population, we are really looking at the arts and cultural opportunities as well as we develop the next assets for the community. We’ve always has some basic level there but I think we can step it up.”
When other communities consider themselves to have aggressive growth at a three per cent a year increase in population, RMWB has experienced three times that rate for an extended time. Stepping anything up when you can just keep up is indeed a lofty goal.
“The normal systems are not adequate to keep up with it, so I can’t raise taxes enough to deal with it, I can’t get enough grants from other levels of government to deal with it, so it really is a unique circumstance,” said Blake.
“The pace of growth had been overwhelming. The recession helped a whole lot in terms of us getting some of the critical infrastructure completed, but as we go forward, if we find robust times as we did before we really need to do a better job of matching what the community can deliver to what is coming down the road at us.
“When you have systems that are out of sync, you have less housing than demand, which drives the prices up and once they go up, it’s really hard to come down so (we need to) prevent that from happening as opposed to reacting when it has.”
One of the biggest challenges the region has faced is ensuring adequate transportation resources. Industry, said Blake, has not been given enough credit for what they are doing to alleviate the problem. They have developed an elaborate busing system for employees to ease traffic congestion.
“Any site that you could work on in the region will provide busing services from your neighbourhood to the site and back at the end of the day. There’s an awful lot of bus ridership from an industrial perspective,” said Blake.
The bigger picture has been somewhat bleak in the past, but Blake reports that situation is starting to turn around and points out there have been some unexpected benefits to the heavy industrial traffic as well.
“Transportation is very interesting. Again, we are geographically spread out, even in the urban centre you couldn’t walk from one neighbourhood to a different neighbourhood very easily just because there is a lot of territory between those neighbourhoods,” she said.
There is a public transit system but, Blake pointed out while it is certainly used, it might not be as adaptable as some would like it due to the vehicle dependent culture.
“As the community expands we’re obviously adding more roads into residential areas, but this kind of expansion has necessitated a major change of provincial infrastructure,” explained Blake.
Highway 63 is the only north-south route through Fort McMurray from half way to Edmonton through to the work sites in the north of the region.
There is a third bridge being constructed across the Athabasca River and two new overpasses under construction for heavily populated areas. These additions are expected to help the traffic flow more smoothly.
Still a few years from completion, the construction adds to the delays in the short-term but over the long haul, “we should be breathing a whole lot easier about the ability to move from one end of town to the other”, said Blake, unless there is another surge in population numbers.
Air traffic too has been impacted by industry growth. The increased number of people coming to the area on work related trips has resulted in more and more flights to more and more destinations.“If you have that accessibility, it becomes easier for regular people to jump on those planes and take advantage as well,” said Blake.
In addition to the impact industry has had on the accessibility of air travel, they have impacted the area in other positive ways as well. Corporate sponsorship, contributions to non-profit organizations and the additional revenue from tax all help to balance the less attractive aspects of industrial development.
“With the small urban businesses and all the rural businesses including industry, they’re covering about 93 per cent of the tax burden which means the citizens who are also paying a far lower share for all of the amenities are able to enjoy because of those contributions,” Blake said.
At the end of the day, no matter how frustrating the challenges of a rapidly growing area can be, people believe it’s worth it for what they can gain, and once in the area, many gain perspective on the community.
“We get an awful lot of attention and some of it is heavily biased for one purpose or another – which is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of the community at all,” said Blake. She has her own perspective after spending many years there.
“I would tell you that we live in an amazing region with natural beauty that surrounds us and that every citizen here cares as much about the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the impacts that we have on the environment as anybody anywhere would. The reflections don’t represent the true character of the region.”
October is the time to celebrate small businesses. All across BC and AB, events will mark the contribution that small businesses make in their communities, and with over 98 per cent of Canadian businesses falling into that category, their impact is significant.
The country’s small business picture is complex and even the definition of what a small business is varies from organization to organization. Generally speaking the definition is most often tied to the needs of the definer; the annual revenue, value of exports or number of employees are the most common indicators.
Industry Canada defines a small business as having fewer than 100 employees. In the service sector, the cut-off is most often under 50.
There is also an even smaller class of business – a micro-enterprise – that has fewer than five employees. And self-employed entrepreneurs may or may not be included in any of these numbers.
Small businesses employed approximately 5 million individuals in Canada, or 48 per cent of the total labour force in the private sector (2009). On average, small business employees in Canada earned around $723 per week in 2009, less than the overall average of $799. That small loss is frequently offset by a greater degree of independence and flexibility and many people prefer to work for a small company than a large corporation.
In the same year, 140,000 jobs were eliminated from small businesses, accounting for about 40 per cent of all jobs lost in the private sector in Canada. However, over the 1999 to 2009 period, reported Industry Canada, on average, small businesses accounted for 37 per cent of all jobs created in the private sector. Approximately 16 per cent of all employed workers in the Canadian economy were self-employed.
There are over 1 million small businesses in Canada that have employees, and between 2002 and 2006, an average of 130,000 new small businesses were created annually. While Canada is generally a favourable climate for smaller businesses, CFIB reports that small business confidence has fallen over the last seven months.
CFIB is calling for reduction in government red tape, and a freeze to Employment Insurance premiums.
The introduction of a Harmonized Sales Tax in BC and Ontario has not been universally accepted and adds another layer to what many view as excess taxation for businesses. Although government has released positive projections on how the HST will impact businesses, it’s too early to measure the actual results and fears persist.
Going five years beyond the government’s own projections, CFIB’s chief economist Ted Mallett is projecting a return to much higher Employment Insurance (EI) rates which ironically, could result in a surplus by 2020.
“Increasing the payroll tax burden just as the economy is coming out of recession will serve only to set back economic recovery and job creation,” said Mallett.
“Our projections show that this level of EI premium increase could cost Canadians 200,000 jobs in the short term and reduce wages by 1.5 per cent over the longer term.”
Despite these concerns, Industry Canada reports that 96 per cent of small businesses (1–99 employees) survive for one full year, 85 per cent survive for three years and 70 per cent survive for five years.
The number of business bankruptcies in Canada fell by more than 50 per cent since 1997 to about 6,700 in 2009.
Whether or not they survive depends on a number of factors but Small Business BC said the largest challenge is financing.
Generating capital and managing cash flow can both be problematic.Organizations like Small Business BC, Community Futures, and others are providing training and resources in support of small business success. The advent of webinars and video-conferencing has made these resources more accessible in more remote communities and small businesses in those areas can now access more supports than ever.
CFIB surveyed 12,124 business owners measured the level of satisfaction owners had with their financial institution. Overall satisfaction ranged from 0.9 to 8.6 (on a 0-10 scale) and rating for a given institution varied in some cases based on the size of the business.
Interestingly, smaller businesses appear to have been more stable through the recent recession (CFIB Study). Our economy lost only 2.4 per cent of payroll employment from its peak in the third quarter of 2008 to its lower 2009 fourth quarter. The private sector was shown to suffer substantially more than the public sector.
Large and medium-sized enterprises were the worst hit, losing 5.6 and 5.9 per cent of payroll employment respectively. In smaller businesses (less than 50), the losses were only 2.0 per cent.
There was also variance by province with both BC and Alberta showing a 4 per cent drop in payroll employment for small businesses. No other province experience even close to the same level of decline.
That’s one more reason to celebrate. The innovation, determination and vision that often carry small businesses are always noteworthy. While smaller businesses fared better than their larger counterparts, that in no way diminishes their accomplishments and successes. For some, holding their own in a turbulent economy is the best of all reasons to celebrate.
The builders of the Titanic were so convinced they had built an unsinkable ship they boasted that “even God couldn’t sink it”. Of course, history tells a different story. It has been said that if there is one thing we have learned from history, it’s that we don’t learn from history.
When it comes to safety we can never let our guard down. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the sinking of the Titanic.
This ship was supposed to be the fastest, safest and most luxurious ride on the seven seas, and the captain was determined to break the transatlantic crossing record on its maiden voyage. Warned of the dangerous icebergs on his route, but fuelled by a false sense of security, he dismissed the warning.
How often do we dismiss safety concerns in our quest to be the fastest, biggest and richest? It’s easy to become complacent with a good safety track record and forget about the very present dangers floating by just off the bows.
Another lesson to be learned from the Titanic is to avoid the attitude displayed by the radio operators to a nearby ship – remembering the Atlantic Ocean was not a friendly place and ships relied on each other for survival.
Radio operators on the Titanic were so rude to the men on the neighboring ship that they actually shut off their radio so they wouldn’t have to listen to the insults. Then, when tragedy struck, their line of communication was cut off. Desperate, the sailors set off flares, but the other ship thought it was a big party with a fireworks show. By the time help did arrive, it was too late.
If you’re riding on the feeling that ‘it’s never going to happen to you’, your attitude could be cutting you off from helpful advice and input from others in industry.
Accidents can happen to anyone in any size of company, even ones with solid safety programs and controls in place – even companies with excellent safety records.
A good example of this in more recent history is the BP incident in the Gulf of Mexico.
When it comes to safety, none of us has arrived. We need to remain open to each other to learn, inspire and prepare.
There was so much confidence in the engineering of the Titanic they didn’t feel it was necessary to install enough lifeboats to carry the passengers and sailors to safety if the unthinkable were to happen.
Let’s learn from history this time, and be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Are you confident in your safety program?
Directing this question to myself, three basic things come to mind in regards to safety; motivation, information and implementation.
Motivation: Bottom line, safety is about the value I put on my life and the lives of those I work with. The government can and does enforce safety rules I have to comply with, but they can’t change my attitude.
Information: For a lack of knowledge we perish – this statement is very true when it comes to safety. Today it seems that everything goes faster, operates under higher pressures and lower flash points, and contains more toxic chemicals and compounds than we even knew existed a short time ago. The list goes on and on. Between government safety sites, training agencies and Google there are unlimited opportunities for gaining knowledge of safe work practices in any industry.
Implementation: I can be motivated by a high value for life and dedicated to learning new and better ways to be safe, but if I am not willing to put the concern and the knowledge into practice, it’s not going to have the desired effects. You can be aware of the icebergs in the water, but if you don’t take the necessary precautions (ie: slowing down – it’s pretty hard to see an iceberg at night) you’re not reducing the risk and may be on a collision course with an iceberg that has your name on it.
Am I motivated?
Ask yourself, what value do I put on my life? The lives of those I work with, or who work under me?
Am I informed?
Next, does this inspire me to get the necessary knowledge and training that ensures I have the best possible opportunity of keeping others and myself safe?
Have I implemented what I know?
Finally, what am I actually doing with the knowledge I have? Could I be doing more?
Because of the value we put on human life and the care we show for one another, Canada is one of the greatest countries in the world to live and work.
Each time our national anthem is sung, we promise to stand on guard for her… our country is not just the land, but also the people. Let’s stand on guard for each other.
David Phibbs is the president of Alpha Safety Ltd. and Alpha Training Solutions.
For more information on this article or their services, contact 1-888-413-3477, 250-787-9315 or www.alphasafety.net.
Never to be outdone when it comes to renewable resources, Aeolis Wind has taken a second look at how wind towers are constructed. Instead of unwieldy and carbon-expensive steel construction, the towers themselves could be made of wood in the near future.
“It would bring a way to use the abundant timber resources we have in BC and we see the potential, not only for doing projects in BC, but also for export to other jurisdictions,” said Aeolis Wind/Canadian Timber Towers president Juergen Puetter.
Pine beetle killed wood “is nearly ideal because it has long fibres”, said Puetter, and BC has plenty of that. The BC forestry industry stands to benefit over the long-term if Puetter’s plans are realized.
“Ultimately, the plan is to build a facility so that we can use some of the pine beetle and other wood to make it into these wooden towers,” said Puetter.
While the choice of a manufacturing site teeters between the Prince George area and the Peace Country, Aeolis has a history in this area and projects already in place here.
It’s a very ‘Peace-centric’ idea, said Puetter, adding that the Peace “makes a lot of sense” to him as a manufacturing site.
“The problem with this is nobody wants to be the first. Everybody thinks it’s a good idea and they want to be second or third but not first. So, we’re pleased to have made an arrangement with Northern Lights College…”
The first tower will be erected in Dawson Creek at Northern Lights College and will serve as a teaching tool for Wind Turbine Technician students. It will only be the tower itself however, a full scale working wind turbine will be located east of Dawson Creek, just north of the airport, said Puetter. Both of those should be up by mid-year next year.
Regardless of where the components are ultimately going to be manufactured, or what they will be made of, proponents are just waiting for some of the details to be finalized – and financed.
It’s not a new idea. There is a strong European history of this kind of product in this and other applications. Germany can boast wind towers, some to as much as 150 metres tall, and in London, UK, a nine-storey apartment building was constructed a few years ago with positive results.
But it’s new to this country and, as Puetter points out, no one wants to be first despite the long list of benefits to using wood construction. In addition to providing job opportunities, wood towers are carbon-neutral, renewable, fire-resistant, bug resistant, mould resistant, rust resistant, durable and cost-competitive with steel.
“One of the big problems with wind turbines is you have a very, very large mass sitting on top of a thin, long tower that’s rotating, so you can get dynamic oscillations.
“Wood on the other hand is inherently non-resonating, particularly being cross-laminated,” said Puetter.
He also suggested that towers could be dismantled and burned “without any toxic or harmful emissions”, making it a green product from cradle to grave.
“Think of plywood on steroids,” said Puetter. “A plywood panel is ¼ inch, ½ inch. Imagine a one foot thick plywood panel and that’s essentially what you have.”
“The key to the whole thing is the wood has to be properly dried…and the lamination process has to be done under very, very high pressures, so you need a special facility with big presses because these are very large sheets that are made – eight metres or longer (25-40 feet).”
Cross-lamination provides incredible strength by layering wood fibers both horizontally and vertically. This reduces swelling and shrinking in the panels and adds to the panel’s ability to withstand stresses. The result is that loads are not transferred in only one direction, but to all sides.
Once manufactured, timber towers can be transported in 40-foot containers making then an ideal option for export, unlike the much larger and heavier steel towers that are the current norm.
The lighter wood option offers simplified transportation options while reducing the carbon footprint inherent in transporting goods – a win-win in Puetter’s opinion.
Once on-site, installation can be done primarily with light cranes and less fuss, further reducing costs and impact.
“When it comes to site it’s basically like a Lego set that you just put together,” Puetter explained.
With all the potential benefits to cross-laminated timber towers, he’s betting that it’s only a matter of time until wooden towers become an integral part of the BC wind energy potential.
Rhinokore has developed a fraccing tank that costs less to transport and can be easily installed once on-site.
A 1,200m3 Rhinokore tank, can replace roughly 20 truckloads of equipment.
In 2010, Rhinokore received $10,000 from the Alberta Innovation Voucher Pilot Program and as a result of that funding, they came up with their ‘better mouse trap’.
Fraccing technology is still relatively new to the oil and gas industry and already, companies like Rhinokore are improving on existing technology – in this case, a fraccing tank that costs less to transport.
A frac tank is a general term for a mobile storage tank used to hold some type of fluid. Characteristically the fluid is used for fracturing wells in the oil and gas industry, but may also be used to store any liquids like run-off water, diesel fuel, glycol, oils and other waste products.
Frac tanks are normally 21,000 gallon, single-wall, steel tanks, but are also offered as double-wall tanks or heated tanks. No matter which option is used, they are heavy and cumbersome to transport.
Rhinokore’s fraccing tanks are transported flattened to work sites. The frac tank can then be erected; a process that takes only one to two days.
What sets Rhinokore apart from other competitors is the honeycomb core at the centre of their manufacturing.
The honeycomb consists of fusing together a selection of materials, which in turn enables the building of light-weight structures with extraordinary strength. The cell diameters of the honeycomb core can be made anywhere from 3-150 millimetres depending on what clients request.
The honeycomb core is then injected with polyurethane foam. The foam improves the tank’s flexibility, lowers density, increases insulation factors, adds to water resistance, and makes the tank incredibly resilient. In practical applications, the insulation makes all the difference.
Its use increases the structure’s physical strength by up to 1,200 per cent. Consequently, this prevents the honeycomb core from collapsing under tremendous pressure.
Steel girders are put up on the outside of the tank, the floors (rated at R40), and the roof (rated at R20), are then attached. The reusable custom liner, which can be of a varied thickness anywhere between 8-45 millimetres depending upon what is being stored, is also secured.
The roof itself is a ‘floating lid’. It ascends and descends as the fluid within the frac tank rises and falls. The insulated walls and roof provide excellent performance especially for cold storage and in remote areas where freezing is concern.
Rhinokore manufactures and provides equipment such as: insulated frac tanks, fiberglass tanks, composite rig mats, artic mats and stabilizer pads for the oil and gas field customers throughout Canada and the US.
During the recession they have diversified the use of their equipment into different areas to ensure continued growth and expansion of the company, and the new light-weight tank is a result of that kind of forward thinking.
And grow they have.
Rhinokore is a subsidiary of Trans Peace Construction and has its head office and a processing plant in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Due to the continued expansion and increased demand, the company has expanded its Grande Prairie operations and has added a plant in Fort St. John, British Columbia, and a further 110,000 square foot plant in Armstrong, British Columbia.
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In this issue:
• Safety: Bill of Goods or Best Practices?
• Forestry Rebound
Oil sands image linked to cooperation
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Talisman announces sale agreement
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