Horizon Oil Sands Day 2

One thing I noticed when I first started checking out the various buildings on site is that there are vending machines in every building. Didn’t think too much about it, everyone likes sugary snacks, right? Well it turns out that our access cards  (Multipass!) are also coded to give us tasty beverages and snacks from said vending machines if we so chose. The company gives us a credit on our passes roughly equivalent to SIX drinks ($1.75 each) per day. Each employee’s card is reloaded at the end of the month. Pretty awesome.

Got all settled in to my desk yesterday, IT brought me a computer. Brand new, dual monitors, can’t complain. I also have a company email address, and a phone which apparently isn’t connected to anything. All my supervisors/team members/cow-workers seem to be pretty decent people, and all are definitely at least competent. My boss and two of the other guys on the team are from Venezuela, but communication isn’t an issue. Got all the details of my project for the rest of my term, I am basically going to be helping out with a project to replace or re-certify every pressure release valve in the entire project. 459 of them. It should keep me going until December or so.

This morning when I got on the bus I asked the driver if it goes by my business unit (Upgrading and Utilities or U2 for short), and he told me that no, it doesn’t, and that I would have to get off at the first stop and make my own way to my office. Long story -> short, he lied, I got to my desk about 45 minutes late, but everyone was cool with it, so it could have been a lot worse.

Then my computer wouldn’t boot up correctly (except in safe mode) for some reason. IT was supremely unhelpful, but I managed to get it going myself about an hour later, without ever figuring out what the issue was.

The rest of my day was spent working with a spreadsheet, figuring out inlet and outlet sizes and flange widths for the aforementioned valves. Except I didn’t have access to the common drive with all of the info on it. So I was forced to be a google ninja, which worked out much better than I expected. I got the required data for about 270 of the valves. Should be able to bang off the rest tomorrow. Short day tomorrow, I get to leave at noon to go to a co-op student meet & greet thing with some of the bigwigs etc. Free food? Fun. Also, four day work weeks? Pretty awesome.

Horizon Oil Sands Day 0

We made it. I am currently on a greyhound-style bus, only much nicer. The seats are imitation leather, there is free wifi and a pair of power outlets for each pair of seats, and it is nice and quiet even on shitty northern roads.

We are currently leaving the Horizon oil sands site, which is absolutely massive in a way that is impossible to convey if you haven’t seen it or anything like it. There are miles and miles of large clustered runs of pipe, some of which appear to be around five feet in diameter, down to ones that look to be about three inches. Where they are going and what they are carrying is completely unknown to me, although I expect that I will know all too well their function and purpose soon enough. Everything is absolutely huge out here – it is going to take a little getting used to. I’d include pictures of the facilities but any photography or taking video is strictly forbidden, and is an offence punishable by termination.

The flight to Calgary on a packed Dash 8 was uneventful. Once in Calgary we had to take a “short” taxi ride (about $40) to the Canadian North terminal, where we got ourselves settled in for a three hour layover until our flight to the Horizon site. Upon attempting to check in, we were advised that we were allowed a total of two checked bags, no more than 45lb each, with a total combined weight not to exceed 75lb. This was a source of some concern for me as my two bags totaled 70lb and 53lb respectively. After some discussion with the desk agent and advising him that I was heading out on an eight month work term rather than the usual one to four week term, I was able to convince him to allow me (and my travel-mate from UBCO) to redistribute the items in my bags into an extra garbage bag and allow me to check all three as long as I could keep them under 45lb each. Unfortunately, upon opening one of my bags, it appeared that the bag containing my rock climbing chalk had popped open in transit from Kelowna->Calgary, coating a large number of the items in said bag with a fine white powder. C’est la vie. This was dealt with and the bags were duly submitted.

The flight from Calgary to the Horizon site on a ~40% full 737-300 was also uneventful, and a much more pleasant experience overall than the earlier Air Canada flight. The flight attendants were chipper, there was a complimentary in-flight meal of a choice of roast beef or vegetarian wraps (unheard-of on other one hour flights), and if you asked for a beverage they gave you the whole can.

Once we made it to site, we all boarded a yellow school bus and were transported to the main security checkpoint at the West Gate. After much hurry up and wait and confusion on the part of the people manning the office, we were given our site access forms and started the process of registering and paper-working and whatnot. About ten minutes into this a nice lady from HR showed up and told us that there had been an error of some sort and that we were not supposed to be processing these forms just yet – they would be dealt with first thing in the morning. Such is the corporate environment, and I am not really all that surprised.

We then headed to the main camp area to collect our luggage and wait for our transport to town. There is a Tim Horton’s in the main lobby, but they don’t carry my favorite breakfast of champions (iced capp), which is probably for the best, all things considered. My improvised garbage bag suitcase blew up a little, but I don’t believe I lost anything in transport.

We are about 45 minutes from town at this point, and tomorrow will be my first real day of work after getting my site access figured out first thing in the morning. This should be an interesting experience.