The federal government’s conditional approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project may have been of passing interest to many Central Albertans. But for Shane Walper, it was big news.
Walper is president and CEO of Predator Drilling Inc., and he estimates that 70 per cent of his Red Deer company’s work is connected to the oilsands — primarily through the drilling of core samples for operators there.
“On a revenue basis it’s quite high,” said Walper of Predator’s reliance on the massive resource play in Northern Alberta.
Much of the money it earns finds its way to other local companies, such as service truck operators. And Predator’s employees, who number more than 300 during peak periods, are also recipients.
Many are residents of Red Deer and the surrounding area, but others come from across Canada, said Walper.
“The farthest point to the East Coast that you can go, we have people that come and work for us.”
Mark Salkeld, president and CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, agreed that the benefits of oilsands growth flows well beyond Fort McMurray.
“We’ve got a number of member companies involved in the oilsands and supporting all the activity there in a different manner,” said Salkeld, whose Calgary-based association represents some 250 companies in the service, supply and manufacturing sectors of the upstream petroleum industry.
That support includes everything from providing instrumentation to fabricating equipment, with WorleyParsonsCord Ltd.’s sprawling modular yard at Blackfalds a visible example of the latter.
“We’ve got a significant number of our members involved in manufacturing,” confirmed Salkeld, adding that PSAC companies from across the province have their fingers in the oilsands.
Many Albertans don’t realize the extent to which oilsands money supports regional economies, said Walper.
“There’s a big trickle-down effect, and I don’t know that everyone fully understands that.”
He and Salkeld agree that the Northern Gateway project and other proposed pipelines are critical for the oilsands to achieve their potential, and generate even greater economic spin-offs.
“We need it,” said Salkeld, adding that those benefits will extend beyond Alberta.
“It’s more than just a provincial thing, it’s a national thing.”