November 9, 2021

NLC expanding simulated well site

Fort St. John residents wasted an opportunity to voice their opinions on a new installation at Northern Lights College (NLC) that is expected this fall.
Aug 22, 2011 2:00 AM By: James Waterman Staff Writer

Fort St. John residents wasted an opportunity to voice their opinions on a new installation at Northern Lights College (NLC) that is expected this fall.

The college is adding a 40 metre tall, triple-cantilever, beam-leg mast oilrig to the simulated well site at its Jim Kassen Industry Training Centre. Recognizing that nearby residents might have concerns about the project ranging from noise to public safety, NLC held a community information session during the evening of Thursday, August 18. Although homeowners living within one kilometre of the school were specifically invited to the event, it was very poorly attended.

Regardless, Dwayne Hart, Vice President of Finance and Administration at NLC, delivered a short presentation about the oilrig installation and fielded questions from the few who did attend, before leading them outside to see the future site of the newest addition to the college.

“This is not a new vision,” Hart said during the presentation, noting that this has been in the works since the inception of the Industry Training Centre and the simulated well site about ten years ago.

It is finally happening now, thanks to the generosity of Nabors Canada and Shell Canada, who have donated the rig, valued at approximately $6 million. The rig has actually been in the field as recently as this past spring. There isn’t a fixed date for the installation, since they are still hammering out the transport and delivery details, but the hope is that the rig will be up before the snow, and operating by next academic year.

“I think it’s incredible that industry does this,” said Hart. “You know, when you look at the knocks that a lot of industry gets, that they don’t contribute enough tax and such we as a college, which is a B.C. [institution], supported by taxpayers, is getting a $6 million donation. Industry steps up to the plate so many times for us. Without them, we couldn’t be doing this incredible type training and helping people find jobs and get the right training for those jobs.”

When the project was first conceived, the houses across the road from the college had not yet been built. NLC took that into account when considering potential issues such as public safety, noise, light, and environmental concerns.

The simulated well site is already enclosed by a fence, but the new installation will be surrounded by a second twelve foot tall security fence, topped with razor wire to deter those who might want to try climbing the rig. It is expected that the noise level will be in the neighourhood of 90 decibels on the rig floor, which is similar to the noise of a lawnmower.

The closest house is 300 feet from the rig site, at which distance the noise level drops to 60 decibels. This is well below the noise levels of the train and trucks on the road, which are both closer to the houses than the rig site. Since classes at the college run from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m,, additional lighting is necessary at the rig to comply with WorkSafe BC standards.

This is a particular concern during the short days of winter when it is dark long before classes end, but that lighting will be directed away from nearby houses. The only visible light outside of school hours will be the aircraft warning light, a Department of Transportation requirement, although the rig is over five kilometres from the nearest landing site.

Finally, all drilling at the site will be conducted within a 200 metre deep enclosed hole with absolutely no chance of communication with the water table. Furthermore, use of the rig won’t actually involve any oil or natural gas.

“No environmental impact whatsoever,” said Hart.

NLC has deemed this addition necessary in order to offer the best possible training for a new generation of oil and gas industry personnel in a labour pool that is struggling to meet the demands of the energy sector.

“We have programs that are up to 5 months [or] 10 months in length,” said Hart. “And we also have one day courses. So, everything from H2S to safety training to three-day courses. And then we’re going to have all the rig training programs.”

“The supervisory courses are obviously something that we’re considering,” added Rick Newlove, Coordinator of Workforce Training and Continuing Education at NLC. “A lot of the training [is] rig specific, everything from the entry level – leasehand, floorhand, derrickhand – right up to a driller we’re intending to try to incorporate into the use of the rig, to try and have it utilized as much as possible.”

“From my knowledge,” he continued, “the only other training infrastructure we have in Canada is in Nisku, Alberta. So, having something like that up here is very important.”

“We’re going to simulate exactly what you see in the field,” said Hart.

It was also noted that the oilrig can help allay the fears of parents of children who are heading into the oil patch and educate residents not involved in the industry about the work that is done on site by giving them a firsthand look at those operations.

“We’re working closely with the City of Fort St. John,” said Hart. “They’re going to be building their new interpretive centre in town. And part of the interpretive centre and our collaboration with the City of Fort St. John is to use this site as a type of education centre for people, both in town and tourists who are coming through town, that they can come and see what a rig site looks like right in town. And they’ll be able to see the type of work that goes on at a rig site.”

The addition of the oilrig follows close on the heels of the donation of an amine unit – which is a sour gas sweetening process – that arrived in early August.