I had an excellent week with TransCanada up in Fort Hills, north about an hour’s drive from Fort McMurray. We were working in the tank containment of their Northern Courier Project (NCP) terminal, the north end of the pipe that conveys hot bitumen south to Hardisty terminal, from where it makes its way to refineries in southern Canada and the US. I had a chance to support the hydrostatic tests on these tanks back in 2016, and it felt great to be back in Fort Mac, and the hospitality I received could not have been more appreciated.
I’m used to fielding sincere questions about how I feel working in the oil-and-gas industry, and this trip led me to reflect more carefully on my reasoning. There’s a valid argument about the side-effect consequences of making this energy available to American consumers who are not particularly skilled at using mass transit and not motivated to purchasing energy efficient vehicles. I acknowledge the merit of arguing that cutting off the supply of oil would accelerate the inevitable adoption of renewable and other lower-impact energy sources. If only it could be accomplished so easily…
What’s lost, though, in this (sometimes heated) discussion is the extraordinary commitment pipeline companies make to operating safely and maintaining containment integrity. And since a company is really just a group of engineers and operators united by management and culture, it’s not surprising that the oil-and-gas industry is home to the most diligent and thoughtful engineers with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to work. They are, each of them, resourceful, bright, collaborative, safe, and well-trained. This past week in Alberta was a great reminder of engineering excellence under sometimes difficult conditions. It’s astonishing, and I can’t relate how much I enjoy working with them.
We completed our work safely and effectively, and I departed with the Operations group fully in control of a situation that, honestly, was never particularly challenging. The idea of diligence is fully ingrained in their culture; they understand the consequences of a problem and are diligent in investigating every anomaly to assure that no issue escalates into a problem. I look forward to my next opportunity to support this excellent organization.