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Thursday, 18 May 2017 19:58

Oilpatch Optimism

Written by Kevin Hampson
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The 2017 Peace Region Petroleum Show kicked off Wednesday with 300 exhibitors showing the latest technology and machinery from the oil and gas industry.

About 6,000 people were expected to drop by the two-day event, held at Evergreen Park and organized by the Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Grande Prairie Petroleum Association.

Businesses were tentatively optimistic about the oil industry recovery. Armour Ready, based in Fort McMurray, sells about 100,000 coveralls per year, said Al Erskine, regional sales and marketing manager. Lately they’ve started to get more orders.

“It’s probably the worst time in Alberta’s history for this kind of business, but we’re definitely seeing signs of things picking up,” he said. “Companies are actually telling us they’re hiring and so they’re buying new products.”

Perry Heintz, owner of Secure Enviro Systems, which builds loadline containers out of Stettler, has been in the industry 38 years. He says it’s been very slow in Central Alberta for the last few years, but it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before.

“We’ve been in the oil industry long enough to know that she goes up and down, up and down, all the time. You get used to riding in and out.”

There seems to be an up-and-down spike every three or four years, but the latest one has been on the long side, he said.

IDENT Oil and Gas Signage provides the signs companies are legally required to display when drilling is taking place.

Mark Stovel, financial controller said the Calgary-based company has been riding out the downturn.

“It has been difficult over the last two years; we’ve definitely shrunk … There is opportunity to diversify but we’ve found a niche and we’re experts in it.”

Stovel said they still have business during downturns because “there’s lots of mergers and acquisitions.” When a property is purchased, the new company name has to be put up everywhere.

“If there’s a big takeover and you need 100 signs out in 90 days we can provide that service with a five-day turnaround.”

Virtual reality

One of the new technologies on display is a training program that uses virtual technology. United Rentals Safety Training is just beginning to roll out the program, said Dave Brown, the company’s divisional safety trainer for Alberta.

On display in Brown’s booth is a boom lift platform; you step into it, put on a VR headset and find yourself in a virtual-reality industrial area. You then have to manipulate the controls to operate the machine in simulation.

“We have 16 different driving scenarios and elevating scenarios, one of them being how to drive through a depression, which in a machine can be super dangerous – there’s no suspension on these machines,” Brown said.

“It is the next best thing to actually going outside and putting you on a machine. So if you’re a new operator, especially, you get the chance to operate the controls before we take you outside.”

The petroleum show also continued Thursday.

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