From October 12-14, we've assembled a group of 14 Quebec leaders to take part in a tour of Alberta’s energy sector. Our goal for the tour is to shape the national debate over energy by giving influential Quebecers the opportunity to learn more about the industry. We partnered with Suncor, ConocoPhillips, Seven Generation and TransCanada to tour their facilities in Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Calgary. Support from CAPP, CEPA, Enbridge and Tenaris was also instrumental in getting this initiative off the ground. This tour is part of our ongoing Resource Champions initiative, which taps into our cross country network to push for the infrastructure crucial to diversifying Canada’s markets for natural resources and energy. Follow the tour along on Twitter with #CCCMissionQc.
“Steak for breakfast? We’re definitely in Alberta."
- A delegate on the Québec Tour
The participants of the Canadian Chamber’s Québec Leaders Energy Tour were in for quite a few surprises on the first day of the mission, and steak as part of the hotel’s breakfast buffet was going to be the least of them.
The tour began with a quick drive through Fort McMurray, offering delegates the opportunity to witness firsthand the devastation caused by the forest fires last May. This is where they were in for their first surprise, witnessing the rapidity with which the community had rebounded and how efficiently reconstruction efforts were deployed. Participants were even astounded that some areas of the city had been razed, since no signs of the catastrophe, except a few blackened trees, were apparent, and buildings were cropping up with impressive speed.
After crossing through the city, we reached the Suncor Oil Sands site, where delegates were in for another surprise—the sheer size and impressiveness of the site. This impression was reinforced by a stroll through the maintenance bay for the heavy haulers, machines that can haul over 300-400 tonnes of oil sands at a time.
The extremely detailed briefing given by Michael Southern, Jenelle Hiney and the rest of the Suncor team painted a very vivid and clear picture of the open mine oil sands production process. Visits to the control centre and to a viewing point of the mine entrance helped to complete that image.
Most impressive was the last stop on the Suncor tour, the Wapisiw Lookout. The former site of a tailings pond, which received by-products of the oil sands production technique, Wapisiw is now the result of one of the most successful reclamation projects in the world. By draining and drying the pond, then covering it with a layer of overburden and muskeg and finally proceeding to carefully plant over 600,000 trees and shrubs in the area, Suncor was able to change this tailings pond into a brand new ecosystem. The project was so successful, it contributed to fostering growth in the numbers of an endangered toad species.
From there, we continued on to the ConocoPhillips in situ facility. This technique uses steam to perform a first separation of oil and sand inside the ground, allowing the bitumen to be brought up to the surface more easily. From there, the bitumen is diluted into unrefined oil and then pushed to refineries and clients through an imposing network of pipelines.
The focus that ConocoPhillips puts on security and environmental responsibility is impressive, making it one of the company’s core values. The company also supports that commitment with state-of-the-art technology, manned from a high-tech control centre in the middle of its facility.
The delegation toured the facility with an operations director who flies in from Montréal for his two-week shifts before returning home. As a last stop, the delegation was invited to visit the residences that ConocoPhillips employees use when they are at the site, a hotel-type facility that boasts 3,400 rooms!
Once our delegates were truly satisfied they had asked all of their questions, we headed out to the airport, looking forward to two things: a classic Alberta steak dinner and the flight that would take us to Grande Prairie and the rest of our mission.