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Energy Law Club Heads to the Oil Sands

Rodney Perkins (3L)

On October 25th, the Energy Law Club hosted its annual oil sands trip to the Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd in-situ facility. The day started off at 7:00am and, within an hour, we were almost at Sherwood Park.

After a slight ‘shortcut’ and a few wrong turns, we arrived at the Canexus rail loading facility where we were treated to a tour of the ever- expanding crude oil transportation and distribution hub of central Alberta. The facility receives crude oil by truck from Northern Alberta, loads it onto rail cars and delivers the product to refineries as far away as eastern Canada and the American Gulf Coast.

We, then, departed for the Connacher facility; a journey that took a little longer than anticipated, as our bus driver was once again sure of a shortcut that inevitably resulted in driving the wrong way for half an hour, a few U-turns, and one or two frustrated ELC executive members.  

Although the bus ride was arduous, the trip immediately became worth it upon being greeted by the staff of Connacher. Our tour began with lunch in camp, and a tour of the living quarters as well as the common room, where workers can relax with darts, a movie theatre, pool tables, and plenty of free snacks (which we took full advantage of). We could not have asked for more gracious hosts; Steve, the Project Manager, and Wade, the Plant Operator, treated us to an amazing tour with informative commentary of both the Pod 1 and Algar oil sands recovery projects.

Two aspects of the oil sands facility really stood out for me: the minimal amount of land disturbance, and the relatively small number of people required to operate the facility. The Connacher site is an in-situ facility, meaning they inject steam into the ground through one well, heating up the oil, and thus separating it from the sand, then pumping it back to the facility through another well.

As this process is technologically driven, a large amount of oil can be recovered with minimal human capital. The Connacher sites we visited produce about 16,000 barrels of oil a day, while only requiring 30 staff members on site to assist with recovery and maintenance of the facility.

 A special thank you is in order to both Brice Goldfeldt and Rebecca Bloomer for organizing the trip, and ensuring it went smoothly from start to finish. A special thank you also goes to Chris Bloomer, the CEO of Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd, and all of the employees who hosted our group and provided us with a fun and enlightening day.

Without their hard work, our club would not have been able to provide students with this experience; the oil sands trip allowed us all to further our knowledge of an industry that not only drives our provincial, but nation-wide economy.