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Working in the Canadian oil sands: 6 figures in 6 months!
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scotian Offline
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Post: #1165
RE: Risks, opportunities, import/export
(03-16-2013 06:58 AM)youngmobileglobal Wrote:  --

I'm curious to know what opportunities would be like for someone who did something like this:

1. Showed up in an entry level or semi-experienced position - anywhere/anything really, but probably more physical labor.

2. Networked with managers, colleagues, workers, and small/medium sized contractors. Learned the wide range of components and tools required in a range of scenarios - from the transport to the oil extraction to the health/safety/environmental area.

3. Learned what parts frequently break, are significantly overpriced, and/or strongly in demand but not easily found.

4. Begin importing products/goods/tools into the Alberta sands area in specialized niche products that are specific to what teams need in the end to end sands extraction process

5. Start on a small scale and establish trust as a go-to-guy who can source/procure in Asia/China for the medium to long term. Spend time seasonally bouncing between Shenzhen and Alberta - 3 months China, 3 months Canada, and so on and so forth.

6. Launch a sourcing venture specific to procuring these specific niche oil sands equipment and tools that are unique to the conditions, demands, and contractors in the oil sands field. Develop a reputation as a trusted and reasonably priced procurement/sourcing provider who has insider knowledge and practical experience using the sourced goods in question.

7. Manage supplier and client relationships.


To guys who have done the Alberta oil sands experience - what sorts of risks, opportunities, obstacles etc do you see coming up for a situation like this?

Any feedback you can provide would be much appreciated.

Simultaneously, if you fit this profile, are currently working in the oil sands, and are interested in a potential joint venture then send me a private message.

Thank you.


I'll try to answer this to the best of my abilities although as a grunt working in the field, I don't have too much exposure to the business side of things.

I think the biggest obstacle on the ground would be that you're working around a bunch of red necks for the most part, these aren't exactly people who think globally. Not only co-workers but a lot of the managers I've worked under are basically cavemen and not very forward thinking. A lot of the equipment we use is out dated, actually this seems to be a problem throughout industry in Canada and is a factor is our low levels of productivity vis-a-vis other industrial nations.

Most of the major decisions made concerning new equipment and importing aren't made in Fort McMurray, they would be done at the offices in Calgary or Edmonton. Exposure to the unique oil extraction and refining process up north would be helpful, but the movers and shakers are all down south. Also, I believe that the oil industry is dominated by an "old boys club", they hang out at the Calgary Petroleum Club:

Djemba Djemba is correct that a lot of companies seem to be leery about foreign made products and some sites in particular have had disasters (unscheduled shut downs lasting months after equipment fails) that was caused by, among other things, cheap steel imported from Romania.

There's a lot of talk in the media about how the technology is developing at a fast pace in the oil sands, most of the R and D taking place at the University of Alberta and the University of Edmonton, but I don't really see it on the ground, although again, I'm just a tradesman so these things fly over my head for the most part.

Technologies developed that are unique to oil sands extraction include Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) and Toe to Heel Air Injection (THAI), there's some decent videos on youtube to explain both but you almost have to be a petroleum engineer to understand some of the concepts.

I'd say that if a guy wanted to make ins within the oil sands in the way you write above, he's have to have some engineering knowledge (preferable petroleum, mining or mechanical) and a business back ground.

An example of a lack of ingenuity that I can think of would be the time that I worked at an oil sands mine in the "ore prep" area where they load the bitumen onto conveyors where they are carried up to a big "crusher". Basically this is a machine built by German mining equipment giant Thyssen Krupp that crushes the rock like bitumen clay into smaller pieces before sending it to the next process. A hopper feeds the bitumen into a larger container which has big two cylinder rolling beside each other with massive teeth on them.

I was sent to work there after they shut it down because the tough bitumen was wearing down the big teeth and in some cases breaking them off, we had to weld on steel reinforcement plates to the sides, this took about a week. They started it back up and within a few days, all of the plates broke off and they had to shut it down again, this time for over two weeks and we put the same plates on except this time we welded on front plates and reinforced them with thicker welds. I'm not sure if they lasted as I left the job after that but I couldn't help but think that there had to be a better way. They probably ended up replacing the inefficient crusher with better teeth.

Anyway, the oil sands pose a lot of unique challenges to the engineering departments of all oil companies such as environmental, mining, refining processes, transportation, health and safety, etc. As I say these questions are a bit above my pay scale but hopefully I shed some light on the topic for you.

Don’t sweat the petty things, pet the sweaty things.
03-18-2013 12:57 AM
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Messages In This Thread
Risks, opportunities, import/export - OSL - 03-16-2013, 06:58 AM
RE: Risks, opportunities, import/export - scotian - 03-18-2013 12:57 AM