Dingman Centennial: SAIT student ready to enter workforce
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 11:23 am
As the search for new ways to get Alberta’s oil and gas reserves out of the ground becomes more specialized, energy companies will need workers with the technical knowledge and expertise to adapt to changes in the industry.
It’s a future Alberta’s post secondary schools are prepared for to ensure continued success in Alberta’s energy sector – for companies, their employees and people starting their careers in the field.
Neera Arora, associate dean of SAIT’s McPhail School of Energy, said the school works closely with the industry to ensure it addresses the industry’s requirements and to anticipate future developments.
“Education has played a big part in addressing what the industry needs in terms of skilled workers,” she said.
As the industry evolved over the last 100 years, Arora said more resources and time have gone to research and development to improve methods of extracting, producing and distributing oil.
“Simply put, I think we’ve gotten better over the years at finding new technologies, spending more time on research and development to get more efficient and environmentally responsible,” she said.
According to statistics provided by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, the province has reserves of 1.7 billion barrels of crude oil and 167.9 billion barrels of crude bitumen from oil sands as of 2013. As well, Alberta’s reserves of marketable conventional gas stood at 916 billion cubic meters.
The life of much of Alberta’s productive oil and gas fields has been prolonged thanks to new technology.
Arora said research and development is critical for the industry to evolve and adapt.
Post-secondary institutions like SAIT are there to help. Arora said SAIT has its own team testing new technologies and techniques at its applied research and innovation department.
“While we have the programs we create to get the graduates ready for the industry, there has to be some effort put in by SAIT as well to continue to work with the industry on these new technologies that need to be tested and prototyped,” she said.
The industry and training programs have come a long way since the discovery of the Dingman Well in Turner Valley in 1914. She said it created a need for education focused on the needs of the oil and gas industry and the programs offered at SAIT, which opened two years later.
“Yes, Dingman absolutely played a part in what the program looks like and how it has evolved,” he said.
SAIT offers a number of education programs geared toward the oil and gas sector, including the Petroleum Technology (PT) Program, created 50 years ago.
She said SAIT’s facilities give students practical, relevant experience and training so students have the skills they will need when they graduate.
Students learn at an on-campus wellsite, a range of different labs and they get to hone their skills on a 3-D drilling simulator, the first of its kind at a post-secondary school in North America.
The simulator replicates a drillers control cabin and gives students the chance to learn how wells are drilled in a controlled environment.
Meanwhile, instructors have experience in the industry and curriculum is developed in consultation with industry.
The PT program prepares students with instruction in theory and applied technical training. The two-year program offers courses and training in four areas – drilling, geology, reservoirs and production.
The program has 128 students in each of the first and second year programs.
Next year, the program will grow to 160 students to meet demands for workers by the industry.
Beyond the PT program, the school offers a number of energy related programs geared towards the oil and gas sector, ranging from seminar and training programs on wellhead essentials and production field operations, or fracturing and water management. SAIT is also in the process of creating pipeline technician and hydrocarbon technician programs.
“SAIT’s done really well in terms of capturing industry demand and trying to create programs to cater to industry demand, but those programs are geared for a different student demographic,” said Arora.
One Longview native said education opens the door to opportunities in Alberta’s energy industry.
Clay Hoar, who will graduate from the PT program this year, said his training at the school has given him a solid background in a number of areas, from geology and drilling to well production.
“It is hands on with the well site and the drill simulator and they’ve got other labs here,” he said. “It is somewhat specialized into the main components of the industry.”
As he looks to the future, he said it will be important for himself, and anyone else entering the industry, to continue to learn new techniques to stay ahead of advances in the energy sector.
“It’s continually trying to improve to allow access to unrecoverable reserves and to produce more efficiently and more economically,” said Clay.
“So, of course within the industry you’ll have to continuously educate yourself.”