I’m originally from a small farming town of Didsbury, Alberta. I came here for the oil and gas industry. In 1985 I was recruited to run trucks for Esso Petroleum. I started out as a driver and now I manage the Norman Wells trucking operations, overseeing the maintenance and work scheduling.
Our staff levels vary from 5 in winter to up to 42 people working for Esso this past summer. Imperial Oil can get up to 400 staff in summer. It’s a pretty big operation.
In summer, our work includes barging trucks and equipment across the river to the 6 man-made islands on the Mackenzie River, where our oil fields are located. In winter we are on stand-by for maintenance and repairs. On average we haul about 15 to 20 million liters of product a year. It comes out of the ground as a mix of crude oil, water and methanol. We pump it into a tank, refine it and then put it into the pipeline where it gets pumped down to Alberta.
My days are always full. I go to meetings, plan the daily work for the trucks and staff. We run 9 different type’s of trucks here — everything from steamers, hot oiler and vacuum trucks, to tankers, pressure trucks and hydro vac. I also manage our safety program and I’m proud to say we’ve been 10 years without a reportable incident. That’s a pretty high standard in this industry. We work at a good pace, not a crazy one. We’re pretty laid back here, but the crew knows that when we are busy, we work hard to get ‘er done.
When I came here I had no idea about what the North would be like. I met my wife here in Norman Wells and we’ve been married for nearly 20 years. She was born and raised here. We have a son who is 17. When he graduates he’s planning to move down south to pursue other avenues of working for a helicopter company as an engineer. There is a pretty good deal for kids here — for every 4 years of school you do here, you get a free year of college or university and in then they come back for a few years of work to pay it back. It’s a pretty good deal — a huge benefit.
For recreation in winter we curl, play hockey and I’m on the executive of minor hockey. We also do a lot of skidooing and quadding. In summer we play softball, and go boating and fishing.
For me, the North has opened up huge opportunities. If I hadn’t come here I’d probably still be working on a dairy farm. Here I’ve had the chance to develop my skills and education. I’ve been building my way and it’s all been very positive. I have one guy on my crew who tells everyone how bad it is up here because he doesn’t want anyone knowing about Norman Wells and how good we get treated up here! He flies in for 3 weeks and then is out for 2 weeks. Not a bad life I’d say.
I guess all I can say about living in Norman Wells is that you’re either gonna like it or you’re not. It’s isolated, not a whole lot to do unless you get involved in the community or like the outdoors like we do. I came here and fell in love with the North. I’d say give it a chance. The opportunities and money here are amazing.