While Fort St. John residents hoping to work on the exploration and production side of the oil and gas industry will soon have new opportunities to study at their local campus of Northern Lights College (NLC).
The newest addition to the Simulated Wellsite Training Facility, a full-sized drilling rig, should be completely installed in time for the first batch of students to begin studying in two new programs – Drilling and Exploration, Production – on October 1.
“This drilling rig project has been part of the vision for the Fort St. John Campus for more than a decade,” said Laurie Rancourt, president and CEO of NLC, shortly after the early July announcement of $930,000 in funding for the project from the Government of Canada via Western Economic Diversification Canada.
“Now that it is coming to fruition,” Rancourt added, “the rig quickly will become a focal point in helping provide skilled and trained workers to meet the needs of our partners in the oil and gas industry.”
The $5.5 million triple-cantilever, beam-leg mast drilling rig was donated by Shehtah LP and Nabors Canada, while a handful of other industry partners contributed funds and services to the installation of the rig.
Shell Canada has contributed a $100,000 donation and the $1,500 per day cost of a site supervisor, while Encana also contributed $100,000. Mullen Oilfield Services added $120,00 worth of rig storage and transportation, while the personnel and equipment necessary to move and assemble the rig is being provided by Swanberg Bros. Trucking.
“Our goal is to hire local people and support the development of the communities in which we operate,” said Rej Tetrault, operations manager at Shell’s Fort St. John office. “With this program we know the college will be able to attract the best talent, and we, in turn will get the best operators.”
The industry-sponsored Science and Community Environmental Knowledge Fund (SCEK) also contributed $50,000 to the rig installation.
“This project is an excellent example of a partnership among educational institutions, industry and government providing direct benefits to the local community. The Science and Community Environmental Knowledge Fund looks forward to working with the partnership to build locally skilled workers who are trained in the safe operation of oil and gas equipment in a sector with significant growth projections” said Geoff Morrison, who serves on the SCEK Steering Committee as per his role as BC Operations Manager with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
The mud tanks for the rig were installed recently with an eye to completing the project in September.
NLC expects the new programs will see 200 students per year.
However, there won’t be any students moving through the Geomatics program in the near future, as it was decided in March that it will no longer be offered.
College staff stepped up their marketing and recruiting efforts across northern British Columbia and Alberta during the three months prior to the decision, but found that interest wasn’t sufficient to continue the program.
The small number of students who had shown interest in studying Geomatics at NLC this year were notified as quickly as possible so that they would have time to pursue other options.