WEYBURN – A group of university students from Weyburn, many of them engineering students, are working for the summer at Whitecap Resources, and are getting hands-on experience on the job, learning new skills and how to problem-solve.
The students shared some of the skills and experiences they’ve been having, working at the company’s Goodwater plant in the Weyburn Oil Field.
Mikaila Mahnke and Marcus Gregory are both in their second summer with Whitecap, and Arliss Sidloski and Ross Van De Weyer are spending their first summer there.
Mikaila, who will be starting her fourth year of chemical engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, spends many of her days doing testing at satellite production units in the Weyburn Field.
“I check my wells and put through a test every day, whether it’s swinging them in or collecting jars with samples of oil to make they’re producing properly,” she said.
Marcus takes mechanical engineering at the University of Calgary, and is working in the enhanced oil recovery operations this year, after spending his first summer doing maintenance work. He is working with the newer equipment monitoring the injection of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the field to help enhance the recovery of oil.
A lot of his work is on the computer, which automates the flow and injection levels of CO2 into the wells.
Mikaila noted if an issue comes up at any of the wells, she can check with Whitecap staff in the office or in Calgary, and if needed she’ll go to the wellsite to see what the problems are.
Ross will be taking chemistry at Dalhousie University in the fall, and Arliss is going into her third year of mechanical engineering at the U of S.
As this is the first summer with Whitecap for both, she and Ross are teamed up doing maintenance duties. This means they do a wide range of jobs in the field as they learn how to fix things, like changing out motors or performing maintenance on a pumpjack, and at times working with contractors like Jerry Mainil Ltd. crews.
“We did a lot of lease inspections earlier. They have hundreds of leases, and we had a checklist of things we’re checking for,” said Arliss, noting they have been mentored by Ryan Vinck on the job, learning how to do various tasks.
She noted they have taken a lot of training courses through Whitecap, which she was thankful for as it exposed her to many different procedures and safety protocols that they need to be aware of on the job.
Some of the training included first aid, H2S, forklift training, a powerlift, fire extinguisher training, WHMIS, and even defensive driving training.
Mikaila said both the training courses and the work experience have given her a better understanding of the things she’s been learning at school, including some of the areas that she’ll be taking in her upcoming year at university. In reverse too, some of the concepts she’s learned at school she is now seeing work in practice in the field, and she feels she’s benefitting greatly in this job.
She also appreciates the greater responsibilities she’s been given this summer, including learning how to problem-solve when issues come up, and working with Whitecap personnel to work through problems and find solutions.
Arliss agreed she has also appreciated the opportunities to do problem-solving on the job. “It’s been really great to see all of these different pieces in action, and all that stuff (I learned in school) applied in real life,” she said.
Marcus added the things he’s learning on the job has also helped him understand better some of the things they’ve been covering in his courses at school.
Ross noted he’s learned how to weld with Arliss’s help, something he never learned about in high school.
Arliss and Ross were able to help a crew to move a pumpjack, and while they didn’t play a large role in the job, Arliss said they were able to be a part of the group who moved the large piece of equipment in the field.
On the day of the interviews, the four students were enlisted to help out with a crew that moved in a new building with equipment into place, using two large cranes to lift it off the long trailer. Prior to the move, supervisor Duane Walkeden went over the plans for the move using the big cranes, and talked about the engineering issues and logistics for moving the building into place.
The building was a group separator, and was brought in from Medicine Hat to be placed on the east side of their field to handle increased fluid from the wells.