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From the monthly archives: May 2011
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]
General Dwight Eisenhower was the Allied Commander in the UK while preparing for the invasion of Europe across the English Channel. He had a favorite quote from a WW1 German Field Marshall, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”, which inspired him to say “Plans are nothing – planning is everything.”
It sounds like a contradiction, but it actually reveals a fatal flaw when it comes to our safety programs. Why? Because nothing ever goes according to plan.
Retired army general Wesley K. Clarke noted, “There are only two kinds of plans – plans that might work and plans that won’t work. There is no such thing as the perfect plan”. You have to take a plan that might work, and make it work.
There are strong parallels between preparing for war and preparing for safety, as both involve people on the front lines dealing with dangerous and often unforeseen circumstances.
A plan is based upon a predetermined problem. Planning is fluid, flexible, pliable and adaptable. Planning includes training, knowledge, experience, and strategizing based upon sound principles.
Principles never change while techniques and the way we do things change all the time. For example, in first aid the ‘priority action’ approach teaches that you deal with the most important (life threatening) things first, and is a principle that never changes. However, the techniques used in the priority action approach change as we gather new knowledge and are in different situations.
Yes we make our plans, but as situations arise, we must be able to adapt almost instantly.
Having worked for years as a paramedic, this truth has been really brought home to me. No matter what situation we anticipated on the way to the scene, there were always curveballs that disrupted our plans. No one can ever predict exactly what will happen.
As paramedics, we had the freedom to change our methods and decisions while still holding true to the mandates of the priority action approach.
We were allowed to call the shots as to what resources were called in, whether it was helicopter, fire truck, jaws-of-life, or a combination of them all. The dispatcher never refused our requests if they were at all able to accommodate them, because they knew from experience that only the people on the front lines really know what is needed in a crisis situation.
Plans are clear and simple. Real life situations are messy.
“Successful generals make plans to fit circumstances, but do not try to create circumstances to fit plans,” declared World War II General George S. Patton Jr.
Once a plan is set in place there is a danger that you will become inflexible and try to stick to your plan no matter what. Sometimes it’s wiser to consider other options.
A good example is the recent Tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis in Japan, the ‘perfect storm’ by anyone’s standards. The ‘plan’ called for workers to be evacuated when a certain minimum level of radiation exposure was reached.
However, in light of what the cost would be to the environment and human life if the nuclear plants were abandoned, a decision was made to increase the minimum exposure allowed.
Decisions exist only in the present, and the situation itself often determines the best strategy.
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. The results matter,” Winston Churchill once said.
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.
When you look at them from the outside, inventors and entrepreneurs can look very similar. According to Wikipedia, they are both “creative, pioneering and driven to solve problems.” However, that is where the similarities end.
An inventor develops or discovers a new product or service that never existed before. He or she may or may not bring it to market. An entrepreneur, on the other hand, takes the risk to bring a product to market with the goal of making a profit. It is not necessary for an inventor to be an entrepreneur. Similarly an entrepreneur may or may not be an inventor.
It’s easy to understand why many inventors feel that once the patent is filed, their product design is complete, and their invention goes into production they’re almost home free in terms of getting their product to market. After all, it’s taken a lot of time and effort to reach this point.
In reality, the final element – sales – still weighs heavily on the invention’s success and shouldn’t be underestimated. To be successful, inventors have to look at their inventions as marketable products. In addition, due to their personalities, inventors often do not have the appropriate skills or even the desire to turn novel ideas into self-sustaining enterprises.
Enter the entrepreneur, who acknowledges the great idea and then allows his creative instincts to take advantage of the opportunity.
Inventors, therefore, have four choices when it comes to commercialization:
➢They can license or rent their idea. When an inventor licenses or rents an idea to a manufacturer, the manufacturer handles the marketing, manufacturing, distribution and basically everything else required to bring the product to market. The manufacturer usually pays the inventor a quarterly royalty on every unit they sell. This royalty, generally a percentage of the total wholesale price, is the inventor’s payment for bringing them a new product idea that they can sell to their customers. Licensing is an attractive, low-risk alternative to manufacturing products and taking them to market.
➢To sell an invention outright for the present value of the anticipated royalty payments over the life of the product or the life of the patent. Lump-sum payments are rare because of the amount of capital required and the difficulty of estimating the product’s life and sales.
➢Inventors can partner with someone who has entrepreneurial skills. Partnering may mean sharing the profits, but it also means sharing the risk and responsibility. Inventors who find complimentary partners stand to gain more and stress less.
➢Or finally, they can assume the risk and play both roles – inventor and entrepreneur. Inventors should bear in mind that few people are successful at both roles because each requires distinct skills and aptitudes. There are notable exceptions – people who are simultaneously successful inventors and entrepreneurs – but the list is very short. Remember, venture capitalist General Georges Doriot said, “There have been many fine scientists desperately trying to become poor businessmen.”
Whichever route is taken, entrepreneurs and inventors are generally completely different but invariably dependent upon one another.
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 .
Does ‘Einstein’ make you think of someone extremely intelligent, able to multitask, process huge amounts of information and then make that information work in the practical world?
In the case of Alpha Safety Ltd, Einstein means all those things and more. But instead of a ‘someone’, it’s a very complex ‘something’. They have had a software program created that will be handling the whole range of in-house administration tasks that are presently labour intensive and time consuming.
One of the biggest benefits of ‘Einstein’ is that the program, although intended as an in-house aid, is also going to benefit both students and client companies as much as it does Alpha, said training manager Colin Kearney.
“There’s a whole package that aids us in a huge way. We’re going to be able to manage students, invoicing, policies, registration, history – everything that we do with our school is going to be run through Einstein – scheduling courses, scheduling our instructors, our rooms, stock control, the whole thing,” said Kearney.
And all of this is in time for the company’s new branding. Alpha Safety has expanded its training division, which is now known as Alpha Training Solutions – all in time for the arrival of Einstein.
“What is really amazing is that down the road we can add to it anything which will better serve our client’s needs,” said Kearney.
That’s a big claim for a program that, as it is now, can do so much. Everyone from staff to students to client companies will now have the freedom to register online in real time – anytime of day or night. Einstein will be accessible by multiple staff members to process phone registrations, however, with 400-450 students a month being processed presently by one staff member, Einstein will impact that process and will create a much faster, more accurate and more convenient process.
Their soft launch, planned for the beginning of April, is the first stage of an incremental implementation of the program and will see a limited number of companies using the existing potential as a final test run.
“One of the key things that we’ve discovered is that we get calls almost every day from someone saying, ‘I forgot to get my ticket, I need it tomorrow’, or ‘I lost my ticket last week’. Sometimes a company calls and says ‘we have five guys who need training and we need them in tomorrow’,” said Kearney. Einstein can now help with 24/7, online registrations.
It isn’t just students that have a tough time managing their tickets and expiry dates. We know companies using spreadsheets that need to be meticulously checked every week, which is a huge time investment for client companies. Einstein will help alleviate that responsibility.
Einstein has a solution. As soon as a student finishes their course, the student’s ticket expiry date is entered into the system. Then 30 days prior to the expiry date, three, or ten – doesn’t matter - years later, the student will receive an email reminder, telling them it’s time to book their next course. An automated phone message and/or text message of the same type is on the drawing board.
Companies will receive the same notification for students they book. They will not need to track those details manually. They will be able to book students online, anytime, from any internet-connected computer, and will be able to book them into a course on scheduled days off, for example, minimizing the amount of downtime.
“We’ve spoken to a few companies already and they say, ‘Yes that would be a huge help’…now, literally they can just forget about it,” said Kearney.
Eventually, both students and client companies will be able to set up their own accounts to review all their own information. For approved companies, this will include the option to be invoiced online.
The first major upgrade, after the launch is to, “allow companies to have an online account in the system allowing them to logon…and to check their account with us. They’ll be able to check their workers expiry dates, check invoices, pay online, book students in online, that kind of thing,” Kearney said.
What makes Einstein truly unique is the level of integration and interactivity. An online interactive calendar, on the Alpha Safety website, will allow people to select a course and click through immediately to a registration page that can be filled out and which, after a convenient online payment, registers them, or the company’s staff, immediately into their course. Companies can book in multiple students and records will be automatically updated, invoices emailed and confirmation emails sent to the students and the company.
“For companys this means, the moment they register online, they receive a confirmation of payment, a confirmation email of the course booking, course date and start time, instructor’s name and the names of the people the company just booked into the course, offering the company a real-time record of the transaction. This will all save time and money and avoid fees due to no-shows or miscommunications,” said Kearney.
One of the plans being investigated for future implementation is a job bank where students can indicate whether they are working or not and client companies can search for potential employees secure in the knowledge they have been well trained.
“Einstein will allow us to operate multiple campuses from the same web based software, which we plan to use when we open our future campuses – the first one is planned for Red Deer Alberta,” Kearney said, pointing out yet another benefit of the new program.
The final product is well worth both the money and time for development said Kearney, but that doesn’t mean the process was without its issues.
“The program was developed by a great company in Ontario, so I think the main challenge we had was communicating between our time zones and making sure that we were clear on exactly what we wanted. We did have moments when, I would have a picture in my mind – I would like it to look like ‘this’ and then I would explain it to them and they would develop, and I would test it, and I would think to myself– that’s not it,” said Kearney.
Therefore, one of the suggestions he had for other companies looking at software development was to set regular meeting times with the programmers, and use that time to ensure the details were clear, understood and taken care of.
“Book it every week so the programmers and you are up to date because the moment communication breaks down, things fall apart. Define (things) very clearly in more words than you think is necessary so that what you see is the same picture they’re painting on the other side,” he explained.
“I even communicated so clearly to the point that I was taking snapshots of my screen, and I would draw little circles around ‘issues’ and say, ‘This is the problem, do you see the same thing?’”
Another piece of advice he had was to have a detailed plan in place far in advance. Understanding exactly what processes are currently in use, what processes are expected from a program, and in detail, how the processes interact. After all Kearney said, it’s the extra, unanticipated work that can add dollars to the bill.
The other big challenge he mentioned was to ensure they could duplicate the efficiency their staff now have in electronic form. Hours spent observing the people now performing the functions which the program will take over, helped to refine the specifics that were needed.
Kearney anticipates the Return on Investment (ROI) within a year based on man-hours, processing time and paper savings. He added that the opportunity for more direct Internet marketing should also speed up that process.
“The more I get to know Einstein, the more I see he’s living up to his name. There’s more functionality than I expected.”
• The first commercial oil well in Canada was dug by James Miller Williams in 1858 near Petrolia in southwest Ontario.
• Oil was discovered in Alberta at Turner Valley in 1914 and in the Northwest Territories at Norman Wells in 1920. The discovery that really started the modern Canadian oil industry was Imperial Leduc #1, which first flowed oil on Feb. 13, 1947 near the town of Leduc, Alberta.
• Canada’s first major offshore oil discovery was Hibernia, drilled off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1979.
• There are about 3,000 products made from petroleum.
• Canadian crude oil production is forecast to be 3.3 million barrels per day by 2015 with further potential growth to over 4 million barrels per day by 2020.
• Oil, natural gas and petroleum products accounted for 70 per cent of Alberta’s exports in the first six months of 2010.
• Capital spending by the petroleum industry in Alberta has grown by $38 billion over the past 10 years to $54 billion in 2008.
• Canada’s largest oil refinery, with a capacity of 280,000 barrels per day, is located in Saint John, New Brunswick and accounts for 42 per cent of Canada’s total petroleum product exports.
• Early discoveries of natural gas were made in New Brunswick in 1859 and southwest Ontario in 1866, but weren’t developed. Production of natural gas for lighting, cooking and heating began in 1889 in Essex County, Ontario.
• Canada is the sixth largest oil producer in the world.
• Canada has 4.8 billion barrels of conventional oil reserves and 170 billion barrels of oil sands reserves for a total of 174.8 billion barrels, second only to Saudi Arabia.
• In Canada in 2009, 1,390,671 barrels per day of crude oil were extracted by conventional production compared to 1,331,970 barrels per day of crude oil from the oil sands.
• At 1,943,000 barrels per day, Canada was the largest exporter of crude oil to the United States in 2009.
• Royalty, land sale and rental payments by the oil industry to Canadian federal and provincial governments totaled $10.8 billion in 2009, down 50.7 per cent from 2008.
• Canada is the third largest natural gas producer in the world and in 2009, marketable natural gas reserves amounted to 61 trillion cubic feet.
• Canada’s natural gas reserves rank 20th in the world.
• A total of 5,068 natural gas wells and 3,197 oil wells were drilled in Canada in 2009.
• In Canada in 2009, 1,390,671 barrels per day of crude oil were extracted by conventional production compared to 1,331,970 barrels per day of crude oil from the oil sands.
Source: Centre For Energy
Studies released in the last few years agree that the majority of businesses do not have adequate succession plans. That may not seem like a big deal, but the experts agree it can cost business owners in time, money and reputation. And in light of an aging population, it can also create cracks in the economic stability of communities.
Business owners rarely have a lot of spare time. Demands of the day-to-day running of a business loom large, and the ‘somewhere down the road’ notion that there needs to be a plan for the ultimate death or retirement of owners just isn’t something people are focused on.
For anything but the smallest organizations, succession plans needs to encompass all the key positions in a company. People move on, they leave because opportunities for advancement are too slow, or unexpected events leave a crucial role unfilled. All of these things impact the perception of a business’s trustworthiness – and that can affect the bottom line.
It’s not enough to have a vague idea of what might happen. Concrete plans help to counter the unexpected and optimize the sense of continuity people have when dealing with a company. Smooth, efficient and affordable transition plans support a business that is clearly committed to future growth.
TIP #1: The successful development and implementation of any succession plan is a long-term process – transition, retirement or death is the last step, not the first.
Deciding when to start planning is often the initial challenge for business owners. A shift in thinking from ‘it’s an owner or managerial decision’ to ‘it’s a management process directed by a company’s leadership team, and implemented as part of a larger human resources strategy’ can help narrow down the when.
It’s always a less stressful journey when a good roadmap is at hand.
TIP #2: As soon as the start-up phase of a business is finished, it’s time to start succession planning.
Being informed is the first step. Taking the time to find out what the potential outcomes of different succession scenarios could be will assist in knowing what issues need to be addressed by the plan. It’s basic but it’s a step that is often glossed over.
Experts can be hired to help work through that information and software has been developed to walk management through the process. Organization such as Community Futures or the Local Chambers of Commerce often have access to that expertise although it’s up to the businesses to take advantage of that.
Identifying key positions, evaluating what skills and abilities are needed in those positions, creating a strong recruitment program, providing opportunities for professional development, and implementing regular evaluations of both the plan and potential successors are all critical to the long-term success of a business. ‘What if…?’ becomes a managers best friend.
No matter how talented an individual is, it’s fair to say that in most cases, putting out fires decreases efficiency and takes valuable time away from other activities.
TIP #3: Succession planning should be a component of an overall strategic plan.
The process of succession planning isn’t static – and it isn’t happening in a vacuum. Offering chosen successors the chance to incrementally take on the responsibilities they will eventually hold will bolster their own comfort with the new position as well as create comfort for the people they will be dealing with.
Because the unexpected can and does happen, understanding the potential pitfalls of losing a key individual helps to provide a safety net where many of the actions that need to be taken in a time of crisis have already been determined.
For instance, in a partnership where principles have decided in advance that the business will be bought out by a surviving partner, that person can plan to have the financing in place before they need it minimizing the inevitable instability that comes with everyone wondering what will happen next.
Transferring loyalty and goodwill are as important as transferring responsibility. Clients might well take their business elsewhere when ownership changes hands especially if the initial owner was part of their motivation for doing business with the company. Knowing how potential shortfalls in operating cash that could result are going to be dealt ahead of time can move a company from reacting to responding and put them on much more stable ground.
TIP #4: Transparency and company-wide commitment to the plan engenders confidence, security and a more stable work environment.
Without a clear succession plan, a company’s overall goals and targets can be impacted. Promising talent can be lost to other companies because of the perception of a limited capacity for advancement.
That is especially true in the higher levels of a company’s management where fewer opportunities for advancement exist. One possible solution is to offer lateral advancement where a wider range of experience improves long-term potential for upward advancement.
If some time and consideration are applied, there is generally a solution for every challenge. Like any other strategic planning, succession planning can make a business more successful, more profitable and more attractive to potential talent.
When the price of not planning can be disastrous, it is just good sense to have something in place whether a business is handed to a family member or employee. And like so many other things in business, the cost of not doing can be higher than the cost of doing.
The construction of new facilities and pipelines in Alberta and British Columbia, as well as a mass exodus of aging workers into retirement will create a critical demand for skilled workers in the years to come.
As many as 130,000 workers may be needed in the next 10 years if the oil and gas industry expands as expected reports the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada (PHRCC).
The industry is no stranger to periods where there was a substantial labour deficit. This phenomenon is due to a reduction in energy prices, and a commensurate watchful eye over management and production costs, difficulties in the hiring and retention of workers in remote areas, as well as challenges in keeping employees current with modern and ever-changing technologies explained PHRCC.
As the price of oil and gas increases and new facilities and technologies fuel increased production, the need for skilled labor becomes increasingly more important.
“Gas prices directly drive industry activity, which drives the need to hire more people,” said Cheryl Knight, executive director and CEO of PHRCC.
Skyrocketing energy prices over the last year, as well as projections for increased costs in the years to come, are contributing to the overall need for workers in the industry.
An understanding of the five primary sectors of the oil and gas industry is essential to gaining a better perspective of the precise needs of the various provinces, as each province will have distinct employment needs relative to the type and concentration of industry contained therein. The five main areas are:
• Exploration and Production: Activity for conventional and unconventional oil and gas reserves excluding oil sands.
• Oil Sands: Extraction, production and upgrading of bitumen.
• Offshore: Development drilling, production, and servicing of offshore oil and gas projects.
• Services: Contracted exploration, extraction and production services to the exploration and production and oil sands sectors excluding manufacturing and supply of oil and gas-related equipment and products:
* Petroleum services include well services, oilfield construction and maintenance, production and transportation services.
* Drilling and completions services include drilling and service rig activities.
* Geophysical services (also known as seismic) include survey, permitting and reclamation, line construction, drilling and data acquisition.
• Pipeline: Mainline transmission for transporting daily crude oil and natural gas production in Canada.
Labor shortages in British Columbia are projected to range from a few thousand, to more than 11,000 workers stretching into the year 2020, depending upon the factors aforementioned.
BC is the second largest producer of natural gas in Canada and consequently, many of the available positions will be geared towards drilling and service related field work, steam and non-steam operators, as well as positions associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracing).
In addition to field work, there will also be a need for knowledgeable men and women in field offices, as well as supervisors who are educated and trained to deal with the demanding rigors of natural gas drilling and extraction.
Gas production in BC tends to be a year-round endeavor requiring people dedicated to working round-the-clock in less-than-favorable weather conditions. “The work in British Columbia isn’t as seasonal (as in other provinces) and operates 24/7,” added Knight.
One new facility that will create employment opportunities is Kitimat LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), a facility that is currently under construction on the Northern coast of British Columbia.
Kitamat will become a key export point for a 463 kilometer pipeline running from Summit Lake to Kitimat and is slated to cool and export as much as 10-million tonnes of natural gas per year.
Construction and operation of both the facility, as well as the pipeline, will require countless employee-hours creating novel employment opportunities for Canadian job seekers, and perhaps making recruitment and retention all that much more difficult in the ramped up Peace Region.
Numerous companies including Exxon, Eog Resources and Apache (also involved in Kitimat) are gushing at the opportunity to sink wells into the Horn River Basin, the country’s largest shale gas field (located primarily in British Columbia).
This region is rich in natural gas – as well some conventional gas reservoirs – and promises many potential job opportunities.
It is viewed by many in the industry as a potential wellspring for natural gas and employment opportunities well into the future.
Montney is located south of Horn River extending from BC into Alberta, and is another area that holds the potential for extraction of monumental amounts of natural gas.
Both Horn River as well as Montney are areas that were previously affected by low natural gas prices, and rifts in technological advances making gas extraction previously impractical.
But, due to an upswing in gas prices, as well as an influx of new drilling technologies, these areas are becoming hot spots for an upswing in drilling activity projected to peak in 2012. Along with that, an increasing dependence on an effective recruitment and retention strategy.
Alberta too will have its share of labour challenges over the coming years. It is the largest energy producer of all the provinces and is more varied than British Columbia in terms of the type of natural resources available, as well as its job demands.
In fact, due to retirement as well as the increased demand for fresh new workers, the Alberta oil and gas industry will need to pump 33,000 to 102,000 new employees into the system by the year 2020 projects PHRCC.
Positions such as geologists and geophysicists, drilling coordinators, industrial electricians, mechanics, engineers as well as steam operators and water management specialists in the oil sands sector will all be needed in numbers over the next decade, with the majority of workers needed in the exploration, production and services sectors.
Many new positions will need to be filled in order to meet current as well as future labor demands. But retaining existing staff, as well as making employment opportunities appealing to prospective new staff, is important as well.
Many companies in the oil and gas industry have adopted a more holistic and community-sensitive world-view; a perspective that also directly affects the process of hiring and creating inviting employment packages to prospective employees.
“Companies work with the community in a positive way (to create) recreation advantages for families, wages, training, job security through being a part of an industry seen as viable and growing,” remarked Knight. That’s the ‘why’ of the importance of maintaining positive, strong ties with the surrounding communities. “They (the companies) contribute financially to hockey teams, or fund raising events…you’re part of an industry, part of a team, part of a community.”
Through personal contact with the aboriginal people of the region, as well as with local organizations, oil and gas companies are attempting to create an employment scenario that is not simply about a paycheck, but rather about becoming a long-term and integral part of a family.
An important element of community-sensitive relationships is a heightened awareness of safety as well as the application of measurable standards in the workplace.
Recognizing the intrinsic dangers of particular procedures in the field, many Canadian companies are going above and beyond to make sure that working conditions are as safe as possible for their staff. And that level of safety consciousness is becoming the benchmark owner companies are now expecting.
Enform is a non-profit organization with over 50 years of experience in the field of training and safety awareness education, and an entity motivated to assist supervisors and their staff in the oil fields and beyond.
Due to the perilous nature of oil and gas work, strict parameters and guidelines have been developed that are geared towards increasing a general awareness of safety.
One example of this is Enform’s IRP’s or Industry Recommended Practices. IRP’s were created by a assembly of seasoned individuals from both the oil and gas industries as well as government personnel well versed in the logistics and dangers of the oil fields.
Some of these recommended practices include Oil Sands Operations, Pumping of Flammable Fluids, Fire and Explosion Hazard Management as well as rudimentary practices like Basic Safety Awareness.
Certifications for supervisors have also been developed by Enform such as the CAODC, an oil rig competency assessment course designed to assure that superintendents, as well rig managers, are capable of evaluating the competencies and safety standards upheld by drillers, derrick-men and floor handlers.
Assessment tools like the CAODC are invaluable instruments in creating a safe environment for all workers as well as a providing a measurable standard of supervisory quality.
“There is a strong safety culture that runs through the industry today,” asserted Knight when asked about the value of Enform and the importance of safety in the workplace.
Enform has proven to be a fundamental asset in creating a recognizable and measurable safety standard by which both supervisors and employees are accountable for making the work environment safer and more conducive to productivity.
Environmental concerns are also an issue when speaking of the importance of maintaining close ties to the community.
Water reclamation is the process of collecting, testing, and restoring water used in the process of oil and gas collection to a form suitable for practical uses in the environment. This ‘reclaimed’ water is often used to treat roads, water fields utilized for sporting events, or reused in oil and gas production. This process is particularly important to maintaining the integrity of the environment, especially in light of the fact that millions upon millions of gallons are used in the drilling process alone.
Shell Canada and the City of Dawson Creek, BC, have just begun construction on a 10 year, $13-million water reclamation facility that will likely end the city’s use of potable water for industrial uses.
The city, in partnership with Shell, is searching for long-term solutions that will help reduce strain on the Kiskatinaw watershed, while creating viable alternatives to recycling waters used in the industrial complex.
Facilities like this can help to reduce the environmental impact of potentially destructive practices like oil and gas extraction, and help to preserve fresh water supplies for consumption by human beings and animals.
“Water conservation is especially important when you’re working in rural communities with land owners and aboriginal communities” stated Knight.
In an effort to make positions within the industry safer and more appealing to newcomers, oil and gas industries have developed a heightened sense of awareness towards environmental issues, and have adopted clearly defined and quantifiable safety programs.
So what does community relations and environmental responsibility really mean as part of a recruitment and retention program?
A more systemic, family-based paradigm helps commute oil and gas positions from being the source of a mere paycheck to being the source of a heightened status as an integral member of a genial family.
In short, they create healthier, friendlier, more amenable communities – and that helps counteract the reluctance some potential employees feel about relocating to Northern communities.
Despite that, there is only so much companies can do if there are not enough people to do what needs to be done. The nature of the PHRCC report findings on the industry’s needs through 2020 suggests that at the very least, it’s time for companies to dust off their R&R strategies and think outside the box for new and innovative ways to ensure they can still operate at peak potential 10 years from now.
BC’s Oil & Gas Commission takes on new responsibilities but remains committed to a strong presence in the BC Peace.
The Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) sprang into being as a response to the needs of the Northeast – and here its focus will stay, says commissioner Alex Ferguson.
Several months ago the prospect of some engineering functions being transferred out of Fort St. John to Kelowna cause some upset in the region.
“At the end of the day, we have magically become, instead of the Northeast regulator, we have become a provincial regulator,” said Ferguson. With that “growing up” comes the need to be in more places to provide quality service to a greater scope of activities than was previously necessary.
It hasn’t been an overnight change and preparations for what’s coming down the road don’t mean an abandonment of what is already in place. It really is a matter of good management and forward thinking.
“We’re not that old of an organization,” said Ferguson, “…in those early days, industry was accelerating so fast and we were kind of bolted together by the government of the day, I think, with part of the mandate and to make sure industry had a single window, streamlined regulatory model to get industry going.”
It isn’t surprising then that there has been room for the OGC to develop. As the industry it regulates matures, the OGC has had to have its own coming of age to keep pace.
Created as a Crown Corporation through the enactment of the Oil and Gas Commission Act, the OGC In October 2010, the Commission transitioned to the Oil and Gas Activities Act.
More technologically demanding drilling, an increase in the scope and amount of oil and gas activity taking place in the province, more kilometres of pipeline, a LNG storage facility on Vancouver island, a jet fuel line running through Richmond, the impending addition of LNG capacity in Kitimat as well as several more LNG sites likely over the next few years are all leveraging a more efficient Commission.
Back in the good old days when Ferguson first started with the OGC – he was stunned by the response to his request to look at the safety program. No one could find one said Ferguson.
“How are we possibly going to fulfill our mandate of ensuring public safety if we can’t even look after our people?” Ferguson wondered. So with no safety program in place, and what Ferguson describes as a token engineering group tucked away in the corner of the building, Ferguson’s focus was sharpened on how to align their own capacity with the legislative priorities.
“One of …my passions was building the strength and capacity around one of the key things. When you read the legislation – for those that are really bored and can’t sleep at night – read the legislation. It very clearly specifies the first and foremost mandate we have is protecting public safety.”
To an outsider, public safety might not spur thoughts of engineers, however, in the case of the OGC, they are intertwined.
It isn’t enough, as was the practice in the Kamloops office way back when, of sending out an inspector or two. A pipeline integrity audit is a far more technical process than that said Ferguson. “Pipeline integrity, metallurgy engineering…some of the aspects we weren’t addressing before, we’ve slowly started to build some of that capacity,” he added.
What started out as a handful of people, has become close to 50 said Ferguson. The ability to do more than just the basics has come with time, with understanding, and with leadership.
“When we started, the first effort that we put into it was really just getting some basic capacity to perform our mandate of public safety,” said Ferguson. “I know we’re not done growing yet.”
One of the other things, said Ferguson, was that they didn’t pay attention to or maybe didn’t understand was that there’s a huge amount of pipeline and facility infrastructure in the lower mainland actually running through Vancouver.
With the increased necessity to be on the ground in other parts of the province, moving aspects of the commission to other locations doesn’t seem such a bad idea.
“We want to be a good regulator but we don’t want to have to fly to get to you if there’s a problem,” said Ferguson and that is true whether it’s a pipeline through Richmond or outside of Dawson Creek. As the OGC has grown to keep pace with industry, the question has become not only how do we service a mandate to public safety but how do we do that throughout the entire province.
“We’ve got some other mandates now too. We’re just working on the regulations on that, but we’re going to be the provincial regulator for geothermal. People don’t understand, but all of the discussions and the tenure that we’ve seen given out for geothermal is all in the lower mainland. We have to start getting ready for that,” said Ferguson.
The commission identifies it’s core roles as including “reviewing and assessing applications for industry activity, consulting with First Nations, ensuring industry complies with provincial legislation and cooperating with partner agencies”.
The public interest is protected through the objectives of ensuring public safety, protecting the environment, conserving petroleum resources and ensuring equitable participation in production.
The OGC has to juggle a broad range of environmental, economic and social considerations throughout all the phases of a potential project. And with the number of projects either existing or anticipated in places outside the Northeast, it only makes sense to look at locating staff in other locations as well.
The remarkable thing is that, unlike in years past, there are now enough people to do that without sacrificing efficiency in any location. What was put together out of necessity for something to be in place has grown substantially enough that it can now fly the nest.
“The majority of our regulatory oversight responsibilities will always be in the Northeast…for 50 years it’s been the centre of oil and gas activity for the province and I can’t see it not being in the Northeast,” said Ferguson.
The pastoral Peace River ties together the Alberta and British Columbia Peace and helps set the stage for some of the most amazing travel anywhere. The River makes its way across the landscape for over 1000 kilometers and along that distance, nature reigns supreme with inspiring scenery, rolling hills, and stunning river banks.
It’s not the usual vantage point for people looking into this area and yet it’s as relevant as the natural resources potential is for any other industry.
“It’s the fourth largest industry here,” said Mighty Peace Tourism Association’s Nicole Halverson, who is located in Alberta. In BC as well, tourism is a going concern and as communities like Tumbler Ridge have discovered, it’s an industry that has added stability to local economies.
The 2007 Northern Rockies Value of Tourism Study showed that the Northern Rockies Regional District, just north of what is generally understood to be the Peace Region, had an estimated 224,200 visitors between Oct. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2007. The study also showed that visitor spending contributes approximately $47,580,000 to the local economy on an annual basis.
In Fort St. John, the 2009 North Peace River Region Value of Tourism Study estimated 223,300 visitors travelled through that area in 2007. Annually, visitors are contributing $73,170,000 to that local economy. Although smaller communities, the combined results for the Districts of Taylor, Hudson’s Hope and Electoral Areas B & C show that there were 47,000 visitors and $9,150,000 in visitor spending annually.
The 2008 South Peace Value of Tourism Study estimated 227,800 visitors travelled through the Dawson Creek area in 2008 and that annual visitor spending is approximately $91,580,000.
It may not seem like a lot when compared to oil and gas contributions however, it is nevertheless an industry that plays a more significant role than people may realize. While there is no shortage of money being pumped into the oil and gas industry, both Halverson and Northern BC Tourism Association community development officer April Moi both agree that money is the biggest challenge in maintaining an effective tourism strategy.
Recent history has only served to highlight that issue. Rising fuel prices in particular posed a real risk to an industry that relied on road travel.
There are any number of things that draw people to the north but two of the strongest attractions are the Alaska Highway in BC and the Mackenzie Highway in Alberta.
One of the innovative solutions to that challenge was to market the north as a destination for motorcyclists.
With everything from wildlife and wilderness to history and culture, a bike lets the visitor experience the region in a way that is unique. Up to 18 hours of daylight in the summer lets travellers make the most of their time and a higher than expected number of sunny days each year makes the prospect of a motorcycle tour that much more appealing.
It may seem odd to outsiders that an area spanning two provinces isn’t able to band together to create one cohesive tourism strategy. Rumblings of intent can be heard on both sides of the border however, this is one situation where the ‘can do’ attitude that pervades the region hasn’t made a lot of headway.
Despite their overall success, provincial tourism people agree that the complexity of an interprovincial strategy has made progress toward a unified strategy slow.
One notable exception is the Deh Cho Travel Connection. Linking the Mackenzie, Liard and Alaska Highways in one circle, the journey is just over 1,800 kilometers starting at Mile Zero of the Mackenzie Highway, through to Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway.
It’s appealing due to its family friendly nature. It’s safe, it’s leisurely and there are many potential stops both for the more rugged traveller and for those that like a hint of civilization thrown in.
There are spots in the region, said Halverson, where there is no Internet or cell service affording travellers a real honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned vacation – one of the main things people come here for.
Campgrounds, lakes, museums, arts and cultural attractions, small rivers ideal for fishing, golf courses, musical events, and fall fairs are only the beginning.
Another strategy to counter fuel costs has been to market the region as a place to stay and visit. There is so much to offer in the region, that residents themselves have become a target demographic.
While the Alberta North is more focused on the outdoors, the BC North has focused a great deal of marketing on the history and experience of the Alaska Highway. Regardless of the differences, there are some underlying similarities that make a northern vacation something to look forward to on both sides of the border. For as many people as come here to work, there are others that come for the pleasure.
There is no doubt that it is the natural resources in one form or another that tie the region together and despite challenges, form a bedrock inexorably linking tourism with the region’s other industries and with the success of local economies.
It’s unusual to hear of a non-profit industry school, but that’s what the Grande Prairie branch of the Canadian Institute of Hydrocarbon Measurement is.
Made up industry members who volunteer their time to put on a school annually that teaches other members of industry about the discipline of measurement procedures and policies
“It’s like any other technical specialty,” said Northern Measurement coordinator for Penn West Jonathon Wasylick. “There are a lot of people that deal with that (hydrocarbon measurement) on a day-to-day basis that don’t necessarily understand it.”
In simple terms, hydrocarbon measurement is the specialty of dealing with the proper design, installation and operation and maintenance of measurement and regulation equipment used in the handling of natural gas.
“Everybody, even at a consumer level, has a gas meter attached to the house, everybody has a water meter. What we do is add an industry level,” said Wasylick. Someone needs to know how to calibrate the machines. Someone needs to know what an inspector is looking for when he or she goes on site. It is a much more complex field than might be imagined.
The school started with a group of people well versed in that specialty. As with many of the best ideas, what started as talk snowballed into something more. It was a venue to start giving back without having to worry about the bottom line, explained Wasylick.
“Everything we generate, we donate,” he added. One of the things that makes that possible is that all the equipment needed to teach on is also donated – this time, to the school. It would not always be convenient or safe to have people learn out it the field and the school offers an alternative.
There are not many places that can house equipment of up to 60,000 pounds but Grande Prairie has somewhere that can – the TEC Centre. Being able to house the equipment can’t be underrated. Learners can have a close examination of the equipment and inspectors can come in to show people precisely what they will be looking for.
That unique ‘give and give’ approach where industry gives to the school and the school gives to the community ensures that all the players feel comfortable supporting a school that isn’t owned or regulated by a single body, but is instead supported from an industry wide base. The ‘outside the box’ approach they are taking might be unique, but based on the increasing attendance, it is enjoying substantial success.
The $16,000 proceeds of the school in 2010 was divided between Stars, the Grande Prairie emergency youth shelter, the Grande Prairie snack program, and the reading University. And with the escalating growth pattern the school has been experiencing the last few years, there is every reason to believe that amount will be exceeded in 2011
For now, Grande Prairie is the only location in the region where people can go. Dawson Creek and Fox Creek were considered as additional locations that might bring in more people from BC but were rejected said Wasylick. He pointed out that they already get a lot of people from outside Grande Prairie and that for now, the response they are getting from the Grande Prairie location is sustainable.
Although this year’s school is not being held until Oct. 18, now is the time to plan.
“There’s a lot of people in the industry in the area that might think it’s only for management, but more and more, they’re sending their well operators and their field operators to get better performance and learn more about the process,” said Wasylick.
There are many people that could benefit from attending this school say organizers. If you might have someone that fits that role, contact the event coordinator at email@example.com, call 780-532-0666, or visit the school’s website at www.gp.cihm.ca
It’s hard not to appreciate the advent of spring. Bring on the warmer weather, longer days, and – do we dare hope – grass. Smiles spontaneously erupt, hearts are full of optimism and the confidence that anything is possible is that much easier to grasp.
It seems the whole world opens up after a long, cold winter. In another few months however, the novelty will have passed and the grass that buoys the spirit now, will need to be mowed and raked and watered. Instead of inspiring a sunny disposition, it will become just another thing to add to the to-do list.
That dynamic isn’t just restricted to a date on the calendar; at least not this year. The optimism engendered by an industry that’s picking up can be found throughout the Peace Country. The money is starting to flow, people are starting to relax and people are planting seeds in hopes of a bountiful tomorrow.
Alpha Safety, in true northern style, shows the way with their investment in innovative growth. The Grande Prairie branch of the Canadian School of Hydrocarbon Measurement is planning for the fall and how they will give back to the community. Wavefront is embracing new opportunities through better technology. Area trade shows experienced record-breaking attendance. That’s just a taste of the potential represented in this month’s issue of NWB.
That spring-like attitude is back. Things are indeed looking up even as caution still lurks beneath the surface like the threat of one more snowy day.
It is however, a double-edged sword, as our feature on labour projections shows. There will be issues that come with the ramped-up possibilities. It’s the companies that can hang onto spring all year round that have risen to the occasion in the past and no doubt will again.
For myself, I plan to find a picture of the bright sun and newly uncovered greenery to remind me that spring can last all year if I want it to.
Joei Warm, Editor
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Fort St. John
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In this issue:
• Safety: Bill of Goods or Best Practices?
• Forestry Rebound
Oil sands image linked to cooperation
CALGARY – Oil sands company leaders hope collaborative endeavours will improve their image.
The latest alliance, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), was announced at a Calgary press conference early March.
Talisman announces sale agreement
CALGARY - Talisman Energy announced an agreement with Xstrata Coal to sell certain non-producing, non-core coal properties located in northeastern British Columbia for US$500 million in cash.