Reclaiming Oil Sands

oil sand reclamationReclaiming Oil Sands

Canada’s oil sands have always been controversial. Despite their economic benefits, critics are concerned over the environmental damage the oil sands cause. Alberta’s oil sands are surrounded by pristine wilderness, and development has caused what is considered irreversible damage.

However, a number of Canadian companies are working to return the area to its natural state. With companies such as Syncrude pumping up to $60 million a year into researching land reclamation techniques, Canadian oil field companies are on the cutting edge of oil sands restoration efforts.

The Challenges of Land Reclamation

Alberta’s oil sands are located under an area covered by dense Boreal forest and wetlands. In order to extract the petroleum from the ground, large swaths of forest must be cleared to make way for open pit mines, or steam must be pumped into wells to separate bitumen from the soil. The waste water generated by these processes is stored in highly toxic “tailing ponds,” which account for about 25 per cent of the area disturbed by oil sands development. These ponds are one of the largest problems for environmentalists.

To be certified as reclaimed, any traces of man-made impact must be removed, and the land must be capable of generating native plant and animal life. This makes reclaiming wetlands complex, due to the diverse mix of life contained therein.

Can a Forest Be Rebuilt?

A number of companies operating in the oil sands region are doing their part to ensure that disturbed areas are restored to their native Boreal forest.

Collaboration between industry heavyweights such as Shell Canada, Suncor Energy, Nexen Energy and Husky Energy has resulted in 2.5 million trees and shrubs being planted. The project has replanted about 700 hectares of land disturbed by industrial development.

Replanting these areas rather than allowing them to regrow on their own ensures that the areas are not overtaken by invasive plant species and that animal habitats are not disrupted.

Cutting-edge Techniques

Completely restoring the wetlands disturbed by oil sands development is the greatest challenge of land reclamation. Syncrude’s Sandhill Fen research project, however, is making strides.

The purpose of the project is to create a sustainable wetland environment and share successful techniques with other companies and organizations. This has resulted in a 50 hectare, man-made pollution-free watershed built from tailing sands. Although no animals have been reintroduced to the area – as it is still part of an active mine site – some animals have begun to return on their own.

Other projects, such as Suncor Energy’s Nikatonee Fen, have achieved similar success.

Cleaning up Tailing Ponds

The removal of tailing ponds is another key priority in restoration efforts. The most important development in this aspect of cleanup has been Suncor’s centrifuge plant. The centrifuge returns the water from tailing ponds to its natural state by spinning it rapidly to remove the solid pollutants. The plant became operational in early 2015 and is expected to reduce tailing ponds by 50 per cent.

Oil Storage and Transportation: Minimizing The Risks

oil transportation and storageOil Storage and Transportation: Minimizing The Risks

Crude oil can be dangerous and capable of doing a great deal of damage in a short amount of time. Preventing serious accidents and hazardous situations should always be a priority. Good design, regular maintenance, and proper training all come together to create safe, reliable transportation and industrial storage solutions.

Safer by Design

In designing industrial storage solutions, you are well served by remembering the basics. In order to burn, fire requires three things: heat, a combustible material, and oxygen. Oxygen is readily available in the air, and the oil itself, along with the fumes it gives off, is a combustible material. This combination makes pumping stations a prime candidate for an incident.

Pumping stations should be kept as cool as possible and pumping should only occur when truck engines are turned off. Smoking and anything that involves combustion must be prohibited from the area. Pumping stations must also be well ventilated so escaping gasses do not have a chance to build up.

Storage tanks must be properly grounded to avoid any electrical sparks, and they should be equipped with gas detection systems so operators can be alerted to dangerous situations. It should go without saying that all storage units should be built according to code.

Maintaining Safe Conditions

Degradation of storage and pumping units can lead to dangerous conditions and preventable incidents. Therefore, storage facilities require a stringent routine of inspection and maintenance. Trained inspectors should check for gas leaks on a daily basis, and all workers must be required to wear rubber-soled shoes. Smoking, cell phones, and anything else that could cause a spark must be prohibited from the area.

Maintenance tasks should never be completed with battery operated tools, as they are more likely to spark than hard-wired tools. In addition, all tools and extension cords should be in good repair as both are potential sources of sparks that could result in fire.

Training for Prevention

Industrial storage solutions are inherently dangerous. There is no safety procedure or any piece of safety equipment that is going to be effective without proper training. The education begins with the storage facilities:

  • Operation supervisors must know the purpose of each storage unit, and must use each tool and device correctly.
  • Inspectors must perform thorough inspections rather than simply report gas accumulation figures.
  • Inspectors should understand the proper use of each storage tank, where it can fail, what the first signs of failure are, and how to stop any degradation before it reaches the point of failure.

Training should be an ongoing activity, not a one-time event. Safety procedures should be reviewed with all employees on a regular basis, and all training materials should be frequently updated. Emergency procedures should be practiced and memorized by all workers so there is never any confusion or delay when incidents do occur.

Oil Prices and More: Mobile Apps for the Oil & Gas Industry

oil pricesOil Prices and More: Mobile Apps for the Oil & Gas Industry

Today’s oil and gas industry is a dynamic and rapidly changing environment and oilfield professionals constantly require accurate and up-to-the-minute information to perform their jobs. Luckily, there is a wide range of mobile apps, which support these professionals, including the following 10.


Rigzone provides oilfield personnel with up to date news on developments in the industry. Furthermore, it allows job seekers to search and apply for thousands of jobs in the oilfield directly through the app. The app works with pre-existing Rigzone accounts.


Pipeline Regulations

The Pipeline Regulations app supports professionals such as oilfield engineers in their work by providing selected parts of the Code of Federal Regulations for pipeline construction and natural gas facilities.

The app includes information on minimum safety standards, pipeline safety programs and incident reports. Offline access is available for those working at remote jobsites.

Oil Price

The price of oil and natural gas can change rapidly and have a profound effect on oilfield companies. The Oil Price app displays current oil prices as well as price trends.

The app is based on three major oil and gas trading benchmarks; natural gas, Brent Crude Oil and West Texas Intermediate.

Oil and Gas News

Oilfield professionals must know what is happening beyond their jobsite in order to operate most efficiently. Oil and Gas News provides users with instant access to local and national oilfield news. The app includes a constantly updated news feed that sorts news into specific topics. Users can also share stories with each other directly through the app.

Baker Hughes Rig Count

The Rig Count app displays an interactive map of active oil rigs and their locations in the United States. The map is updated weekly in conjunction with the release of the Baker Hughes Rig Count, which serves as a major indicator for oilfield businesses as to where there is a demand for their supplies and for oil and gas production.


Safety is a primary concern for all oilfield companies. Users of the Observations app can quickly and easily record safety observations in the field including detailed accounts of chemical, biological, physical and psychological hazards. These observations are then uploaded into an online database, where they are accessible to other users.

Schlumberger Oilfield Glossary

This app serves as a dictionary of all oilfield terms and includes more than 4,600 definitions, all of which have been reviewed by technical experts. High quality, color photographs or diagrams accompany many of the definitions. This app is accessible to both amateurs and professionals.

WellEz Mobile

The WellEz Mobile app allows users to view the status of their active oil wells and allows them to monitor them for performance, drilling activity and non-productive periods. Users can also compare their wells’ actual performance to their original production plan as well as compare their current project costs to their estimated costs.

eRedbook Mobile

Halliburton’s “Redbook” cementing tables have served as the oilfield standard for referencing calculations for cementing and completing oil wells for the past 80 years. eRedbook Mobile gives oilfield professionals instant access to information on commonly used materials such as casing and tubing. The app can also be customized for instant access to information on a user’s most commonly used materials. 

Top Trends for the Storage Tank Industry for 2015

storage tanksTop Trends for the Storage Tank Industry for 2015

The industrial storage tank industry has grown exponentially over the last few years and 2015 is set to be no exception. Here are some of the top trends that will affect the industry this year.

Cleaner, Lighter Fuels

Storing fuel is a major part of the storage tank industry. Cleaner, lighter and alternative fuels are now in greater demand than products such as crude oil, which previously ruled the storage tank industry.

The shift towards more refined fuels has been in large part spurred by increasing government regulation of heavier fuels and more stringent environmental protection legislation. Consumer demand for lighter fuels has also increased and created more of a need for storage solutions.

Now more than ever, there is a greater demand for storage tanks of varying capacities and sizes to fulfill these consumer preferences.

More Flexibility for Storage Needs

The increased demand for cleaner fuels means that there are a greater variety of products in need of storage solutions. As a result, industrial storage tank owners are becoming more flexible with the products they store.

Because the demand for commodities can change rapidly, storage tank owners cannot restrict themselves to specific products. In order to maximize their profits, owners must be able to utilize all of their assets by being flexible with what products they can store.

Increased Investment in Storage Capacity

Recent trends indicate that traders are more interested in investing in storage capacity, with particular attention being paid to independent tank owners. Storage capacity offers a more stable revenue stream than buying directly into more volatile commodity streams, which are typically more susceptible to market fluctuations.

The heightened interest in investing in storage capacity can be attributed to the increasing flexibility that industrial storage tank owners are now utilizing to make their revenue more stable.

Terminal Growth

Despite concerns about hydrocarbon production and consumption, the demand for fossil fuels is increasing. In turn, the demand for industrial storage solutions for these fuels is also on the rise. As a result, storage facilities are becoming larger and more numerous.

The increased demand for storage capacity has been facilitated by several factors. There is an imbalance between global supply and demand for petroleum products. This means that there has been a subsequent increase in demand for storage solutions to help accommodate this disparity.

Furthermore, increasing government regulation of international trade has slowed down the transportation of petroleum products across national borders and as a result, there is a greater need for storage tanks at international ports and crossings.

Growth in Africa

Although there has been an industrial storage tank industry in Africa for several decades, it has seen explosive growth over the past few years. Increasing political stability in many nations, as well as the discovery of sizable hydrocarbon deposits, has meant that the supply of petroleum products to the international market has greatly increased. Booming populations across the continent have also increased demand for these products within Africa.

In turn, there has been a heightened demand for storage solutions. For example, the east coast of Africa, which offers the most direct ocean-based trade routes to Europe and the Americas, saw a number of new storage facilities become operational in 2014.

A Big Year for Industrial Storage

These trends show that 2015 will be a big year for industrial storage tank owners. With many indicators suggesting that the storage tank industry will continue to grow in 2015 and beyond, storage tank manufacturers, as well as those looking to invest in the industry, have much look forward to.


Keystone XL Pipeline Myths and Facts

keystone pipeline, keystone XL7 Myths About Keystone XL, And The Real Story

In the commotion surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline project, from environmental concerns to economic claims, it’s hard to pick out the real story. Here, we address seven rumours, from the frivolous to the serious, to try to uncover the truth.

Myth: Keystone XL Exports Internationally 

This myth is based on pure misinformation, but somehow it is still shared. Oddly, rumours persist that the pipeline would export oil to China, but that’s not in the plans. Keystone XL brings Canadian oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast. These refineries are locked in to long-term contracts to receive oil from Keystone XL, so the reality is that the oil will not be exported internationally.

Myth: Oil Transported by Keystone XL Will Have an Elevated Spillage Risk

This myth stems from the idea that synthetic crude and dilbit, which will be transported by the Keystone XL pipeline need to be heated or are more likely to corrode pipes, leading to spills.

In fact, the pipeline will be built to much higher safety standards than other pipelines. And it’s untrue that the oil would be more corrosive than standard crude—no heating, no major compositional changes.

Myth: Keystone XL Would Increase The Price At The Pump

This myth is mostly a misunderstanding of how oil prices actually work. Gasoline prices are determined by international, not local markets. We saw the result of that when OPEC decided to keep their production levels high and prices plummeted. It’s incredibly rare for one source to determine prices.

That said, Keystone XL has a comparable production capacity to half the current U.S. imports from the Persian Gulf. This stable source of oil could actually lower the price at the pump by making refineries less endangered by global disruptions.

Myth: Exploring the Canadian Oil Sands Will Result in Greater Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In reality, crude oil from the oil sands has very similar well-to-retail pump greenhouse gas emissions to other common sources in the U.S., such as Venezuelan crude. Furthermore, producers aren’t leaving greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands to chance. Rather, they are actively working to improve the environmental impact of development.

Myth: Stopping Keystone Would Stop Canadian Tar Sands Exploration

This claim is pretty unlikely. The Canadian oil sands production will have a market, whether or not Americans are purchasing from it. It’s much more likely that if Keystone XL wasn’t approved, Canadian producers would just export their oil elsewhere, likely to Asian markets. In that scenario, it’s not like North Americans would stop needing oil, and would likely continue to import from distant Middle Eastern sources. Of course, all of that shipping takes energy, which means it requires oil. From that angle, stopping Keystone could actually increase overall greenhouse gas emissions as all of this oil moves around the world.

Additionally, the government doesn’t predict any change to oil sands production whether the pipeline goes ahead or not.

Myth: Low Oil Prices Have Made Keystone XL Irrelevant

This is far from the truth. Keystone XL pipeline is a part of an infrastructure to help North Americans become more oil self-sufficient, by connecting refineries and sources safely across the continent. With elevated safety measures and fewer shipping costs involved, Keystone XL remains as relevant as ever.

Myth: American Workers Don’t Benefit From the Keystone XL Pipeline

The American Petroleum Institute estimates that Keystone will create as many as 343,000 U.S. jobs in four years. Even conservative estimates from the government forecasts the creation of 42,000 jobs during the construction phase alone. Many of those will be high-wage manufacturing and construction jobs, which help families live comfortably.

In the long term, things look even better. The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) estimates that oil sands activity will increase the total U.S. GDP by $210 billion over the next twenty years. Jobs look good in the long view as well, as CERI predicts 600,000 jobs could be supported by the pipeline in the same period.

Arctic Subsea Technology

arctic subsea technologyArctic Subsea Technology: Oil and Gas Drilling in the Arctic

Offshore drilling is a complicated and challenging process, and even more so in the Arctic. However, growing industry interest in offshore oil in the Canadian Arctic means oil companies need to prepare for subsea drilling in the far north.

As existing oil sources run their course, new regions and resources are gaining the interest of energy companies. Currently, it is estimated that about 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of undiscovered oil is in the Arctic. Moreover, subsea drilling would cut out the pipeline middlemen, and producers could transport their oil on tankers directly to their clients.

Mobile Drilling Rigs

Out at sea, mobile drilling rigs are the common denominator. In the Arctic, rigs need to deal with dangerous sheets of floating ice. This takes a great deal of specialized oilfield support equipment. Rigs must be smaller and lighter than normal drill ships to avoid obstacles. It’s also important that they have built-in ice protection, so hulls are carefully reinforced.

In order to avoid ice, rigs have to be able to predict it. Ice monitoring centres throughout the arctic combine radar and satellite data to observe and predict sea ice in real time. With the help of scientists and meteorologists, it is possible to plan for the best ice-evading drilling plans.

Subsea Processing

A huge area for growth is in subsea processing. There is a lack of sufficient pressure to pump oil out from the deepest depths of the arctic, so contingencies need to be designed to work with the oil at the ocean floor. In the next few decades, the industry will work to increase oil recovery through full well-stream boosting and water flooding, to create incremental capacity through separation, and to improve the economics of gas production through compression.

Some of these technologies are already under development or application. For example, there is already a subsea compression station in Norway, addressing natural gas needs. This vastly increases the production capacity from the well, as the closer the compression is to the field, the better.

Moving off the Platform

Moving towards undersea production means cutting out expensive platforms and replacing them with underwater equipment. However, just like on land, subsea oil equipment needs care and maintenance, and that requires communication. Beyond pressure levels that human divers can attain, remote-operated vehicles carry out maintenance and operational tasks, attached to platforms by electrical cords. The next generation of remote operated vehicles need to be more independent, so that they can address problems without direct human interaction. Such a robot would be ideal for harsh environments such as the Arctic, where ice would sometimes prevent cord-communications.

Managing Information

The other key for autonomous undersea robots is for them to be able to interpret and use huge swaths of data. As the oil industry becomes more and more digitized, greater amounts of information are available to guide autonomous vehicles in all kinds of environments. But in the Arctic, robots must be truly autonomous, and won’t be able to rely on teams of experts to determine what is and is not important. Integrating data into a comprehensible form will be the key to developing effective subsea technologies.

Utilizing the Smart Grid in Oil and Gas

Smart Grid Networking in Oil and Gas Industrysmart grid in oil and gas

As upstream oil and gas companies are leaping into the digital oilfield revolution, the industry is enthusiastically implementing new technology formats that help deliver real-time intelligence and situational awareness in oilfield production. The implementation of smart grids has allowed oilfields to run a more efficient system that keep costs down and meet local government regulations.

Smart grid networking is, as its name suggests, technology for automating networks, monitoring and controlling the flow of two-way data from production to distribution. Essentially, using smart grid technology means that data is transferred efficiently and reliably across the network, through a high level of connectivity and low energy consumption.

With high levels of data being gathered in oilfields, new solutions for data management are becoming even more important. At the same time, ensuring that communications and electrical grids are not over-taxed requires the ability to forecast and respond to demand. Smart grid technology offers oilfields predictive and responsive capabilities by using communication tools integrated with existing systems to allow adjustments to be made in real time, resulting in maximum production and minimal waste.

Environmental Benefits

Like an electrical grid, smart grids network millions of communications and scanning devices. The technology monitors energy consumption and significant data fluctuations from field equipment so that any abnormalities can be taken care of immediately without requiring human input. By incorporating data into smart grids, companies can respond to changes in power availability from alternative power sources as well as traditional sources, in order to keep power costs low and consistent.

Increasing Production

Managing a large, sprawling oilfield network is challenging. Keeping track of pipelines, production equipment, employees, pressure gauges and other metrics can become overwhelming. But, with the digitization of oil production in the field, and implementing a smart grid to manage it, employees can get real-time field visibility and collaboration, reducing guesswork and preventing potential problems.

With smart grids adjusting energy sources to meet needs, it is possible to predict energy shortages on site and adjust workloads to respond to peak energy demands, thus making extraction and production less expensive overall.

In a study from the Energy Exchange, a quarter of respondents said that the key to smart field success is increasing the recovery of oil and gas production, but 90% of respondents noted that data management is a problem area. Smart field technologies that streamline data input are a vital support component to oilfield success.

Process Optimization

Managing an oil and gas field requires a tremendous amount of resources and is both asset and data intensive. A typical oil well usually has tens of thousands of sensors to reliably track parameters such as pressure, flow, pipeline corrosion, storage tank levels, perimeter security and more. These instruments could generate up to 1 terabyte of data per day, which need to be distributed to corporate IT systems to be processed, analyzed and archived.

Successful smart grid implementation relies on a team gaining an understanding of all performance areas and bringing them together. As all the data and events across the company are integrated, it produces a birds-eye view of operations, enabling decision-makers to optimize the entire production cycle from end-to-end.

Smart grid technology allows the anticipation of problems and opportunities before they arise, leading to proactive decision-making. By seamlessly integrating real-time data streams from the field and running predictive analysis software, it allows oilfields to go beyond reacting to problems and into immediately identifying both opportunities and risks.

Smart grid technology is still fairly new, and there are many small companies in the field competing for market share. With so many available options, it is difficult to find the right vendor. A basic rule of thumb is that larger consultants offer more custom end-to-end solutions while smaller vendors offer turnkey, lower-cost solutions. However, as the industry matures, expect to see some exciting innovations coming down the line in the next few years.

Understanding the Digital Oilfield

digital oilfieldUnderstanding the Digital Oilfield

It is inevitable that oilfields of the future will go digital. Already, we rely on the Internet and email for communication, drones for exploration, and automation to keep tasks safe. The question is, what will digitization mean for oilfield workers in the coming decade?

Plenty of oilfield support equipment can be digitized, providing oilfield workers real-time access to key hydrocarbon assets, field data, and trends.

Fiber optic pressure and temperature gauges enable sustained down-hole profiling with steady information flows. With a stream of 360-degree data from the field, a single well can generate more than 200 DVDs worth of data a day. Analyzing and harnessing that data is the work of digital petroleum engineers.


Going digital means saying goodbye to hand-made charts and Excel spreadsheets. Instead, data sets from the field can be integrated with engineering models in order to show information clearly. With digital integration, tools that IT workers have had for years can be applied to understanding how the oil field is functioning and where problems might sprout (before anything goes wrong). Live visualizations work in up to 4 dimensions, that is, sharing 3-dimensional perspective as they change in time.

Real-Time Drilling Decision Making

Live data streams from drilling sites can be harnessed to make better real world decisions. Already, the Real-Time Drilling Optimization Center makes use of this principle to offer constant surveillance of drilling sites by engineering experts. On schedules matching crews on rigs, drilling experts offer oilfield support by identifying key problems, signs, and data trends to improve safety and efficiency in the field. Similar decision-making support centers for production, reservoirs, and various drilling and extraction processes are already in the works worldwide.

Production Surveillance

Digital oilfield technologies aren’t limited to data streams and decision making. Independent advanced alarm systems can also be a key tool for oilfield management. With production surveillance equipment, it becomes possible to optimize parts of the supply chain to prevent bottlenecks and road blocks. This helps optimize the entire production system.

Remote Communications

Remote communications through cellular and internet networks are already a standby of oilfield production. However, to fully maximize the potential of the digital oilfield, redundant communications networks are important. As the oilfield and decision-making data become more and more linked, it becomes more vital that no link in the communication chain is broken down. Wired networks can be protected with tools like Turbo Ring or Turbo Chain, while wireless networks should have two independent channels.

Integration for Greater Field Efficiency

The digital oilfield is a highly integrated decision making space. Integrated operations is the formal name for work processes in oilfield extraction and information technology working together. Effective integrated operations are the key to the success of a digital oilfield. The ability to work with a wide variety of individuals with varying areas of expertise is absolutely necessary for the success of new surveillance and decision making models.

For this reason, streamlining integrated operations is a key phase of building a digital oilfield environment. Decision making trees will likely need to be re-evaluated to reflect new streams of data and expertise. It’s a lot of work, but greater integration means greater efficiency in the field.

Relying Too Much on Technology

As technology becomes more integrated with oil field production and distribution – both upstream and downstream, that critical infrastructure becomes an easy target for threatening attacks. Oil companies must set up processes, people and policies that will prevent system-wide failures and defend against potential attacks. The best step for prevention is preparation and training. Having a team of trained professionals who can monitor and provide protection from any breach will be essential to maintain a smoothly running operation.

Although there may be risks to digitizing oilfield operations, the benefits are many, including increased ROI, improved decision-making, and the ability to enable optimal business results and value. As oilfield engineers have access to timely information, the executive teams can focus on generating business value.

Keystone Pipeline Delay Not Affecting Canadian Oil Producers

Seamless background of water pipeline

keystone pipeline delay

Keystone Pipeline Delay Not Affecting Canadian Oil Producers

“Keystone is kind of old news,” said Sandy Fielden, Director of Energy Analytics at Austin, Texas-based consulting company RBN Energy. “Producers have moved on and are looking for new capacity from other pipelines.” That’s a quote worth considering. With Keystone XL still years away from even potential completion, it might seem that hopes for Canadian oil exports are caught in limbo. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite six years of delays on the Keystone XL pipeline — which would mimic the existing pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta and Steele City, Nebraska in order to bring bitumen from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries efficiently — Canadian crude shipments are still projected to climb to more than 400,000 barrels a day next year. That figure is nearly double the current Canadian export rate.

Of course, Keystone’s capacity would provide an even greater increase to the present export rate, but the expanded pipeline would only be a strong addition to an already existing system that is operating successfully.

In fact, Canadian crude exports to Gulf refineries have gone up 83 per cent over the past four years, all while the Keystone XL pipeline has been waiting for the Obama administration’s approval in order to go ahead.

Pipeline Workarounds Abound

Canadian exports to the U.S. have never been higher than they have been in the past few weeks, and the slow progress on the approval of the Keystone XL is not proving to be a stopping block for the industry.

Other large pipelines have become strong alternative options, including the Trans Mountain expansion, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and TransCanada’s EnergyEast — sometimes touted as Canada’s alternative to the Keystone XL. Additionally, some old Midwest pipelines have even been reversed to bring crude oil to Gulf refineries, rather than bringing refined oil to consumers as they used to.

Canadian oil is being shipped by rail, with increased efficiency and safety as time goes on. In the first half of 2014, Canada was sending 54,000 barrels a day to the Gulf by rail. The main disadvantage to using the rail system, besides it being a slower way to get crude oil to the market, is that there is no systematic oversight or design strategy to guide its development. Keystone would provide a unified method for exporting oil, and providing protection for producers and consumers alike.

The Future of Keystone XL

The American Senate Democrats may have blocked a move to start construction on Keystone XL in mid November, but the pipeline is still in the plans.

When the bill comes up again in the new year, under a Republican-controlled Senate, there is a good chance the bill will pass. However, there remains the chance that President Obama might refuse the pipeline, as he did in 2012.

Even with the President’s historical opposition to the pipeline and other transport measures in place, Canadian oil producers haven’t given up on the project. According to a spokesperson from TransCanada, who owns the potential project, Keystone XL would still be the least expensive way to get Canadian oil down to the Gulf. TransCanada’s clients have maintained their contracts for the use of the pipeline, and the company remains devoted to its plan.

So while Canadian oil transport hasn’t been entirely limited by the long delays on the pipeline, it still remains a much-anticipated project.

Oil and Gas Industry Education in Canada

Oil and Gas Industry EducationOil and Gas Industry Education in Canada

The Canadian skills gap is a big issue, but oil and gas workers and students don’t need to be afraid of it thanks to a wealth of training programs available countrywide.

We all know that energy is big business in Canada. In fact, one third of Canadians rated the oil and gas industry as one of the top three industries for job opportunities next year, according to the Randstad Canada Labour Trends Study 2014.

Of those polled, 9 in 10 thought that the skills gap would be a serious issue in 2014. What’s more, in provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan, where oil and gas projects are booming, the lack of skilled trade workers was seen as the biggest issue facing the industry in 2014.

Young workers (under 34) in particular expect employers to provide financial incentives for their work and training, while mature workers (over 55) are more likely to believe that career incentives should start in schools.

Another debated question is whose responsibility it is for the training required to close the gap, with one in three workers believing that governments should do more to train under and unemployed workers. A full 40% of workers believe companies should invest more in skills training.

This lack of confidence hurts both employers who need great workers and the potential employees alike. Luckily, workers can take control of their futures in several ways.

Getting your Start in Oil and Gas

Workers passionate about theory should lean towards traditional engineering programs at universities, which set them up for professional engineering licenses.

But if you just want a quick and hands-on approach to learning, most community college programs offer a fast way to get your hands dirty. It’s worth checking out your program’s transferability to four-year degrees, too, in case you decide you want to go the traditional route.

Several Canadian schools offer programs designed specifically to get you into petroleum engineering and technology: Cape Breton University , the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, and the University of Saskatchewan all offer excellent engineering programs geared to the petroleum industry.

Getting Ahead

For many workers, understanding how to get into the oil and gas industry is enough of a challenge. Then there’s the question of ongoing skill renewal in order to stay on top of industry standards and advance professionally.

Professional certifications can help you stand out from the crowd professionally and help you move into management roles more quickly than your less-prepared counterparts. Certification programs require professional experience, and often other supporting information. Keep a portfolio, and keep your eyes open for new opportunities.

Certification can make you an attractive employment option, and help you understand complex issues prior to encountering them in the field. Whether your interest lies in helping communities understand and work with oil and gas projects through stakeholder relations, keeping worksite standards up as a Safety Professional or establishing contracts as a landman, there is a professional option out there for you.

Nor does education have to stop at the professional and undergraduate level. Plenty of universities offer Masters of Science programs in petroleum or environmental engineering. From there, a doctorate certainly isn’t out of the question for an academic oil and gas worker.