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Editorial comment

It seems to be becoming a bit of a tradition in my December comment for me to discuss predictions made about our industry at the start of each year and this month, I’m afraid to say, I will be keeping up with tradition. Earlier in the year I read an article in the 2012 Heavy Oil & Oilsands Guidebook entitled ‘A tough but worthwhile climb: what to watch in 2012.’ As I’m sure you can guess, the article was full of forecasts for the heavy oil/oilsands industry. There were nine to be precise, but due to this comment being only a brief insight, I will discuss three key points.

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 ‘At least US$ 20 billion will be spent on new capital projects in the oilsands sector in 2012,’ is the first forecast I would like to look at, and in my humble opinion this did happen in 2012. Over the last year in Hydrocarbon Engineering and on Energy Global alone we have reported on nearly US$ 12 billion of oilsands investments in both Canada and Venezuela, not including contracts where the value was undisclosed, such as Technip’s heavy oil upgrader contract at the Petrocarabobo S.A. refinery, or pipeline investments surrounding oilsands projects. This is over half the predicted investment figure and there are many more projects that didn’t hit the HE inboxes as press releases.

The investment in the oilsands hasn’t stopped at capital projects; investments in clean technologies have also been on the up and our September regional report ‘The footprint in the sand’ from Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, Canada, highlighted this point as the Canadian government alone invests CAN$ 2 billion/y in greenhouse gas reduction and clean technology. The article also went some way to confirming another prediction; ‘collaboration grows as key to managing environmental issues,’ as the piece discusses Kemira, a waster chemistry company headquarted in Helsinki, Finland, who are branching into the Canadian oilsands’ water related challenges, focusing on tailings ponds. The partnership with experts from other countries will no doubt be hugely beneficial in helping environmental issues surrounding the oilsands, especially as the partnering companies are specialists in their particular fields.

The final prediction I’d like to comment on looks at the lack of human resources, as the article stated ‘the oilsands sector is moving into a full blown labour shortage.’ This is an undeniable fact not only in the oilsands/heavy oil sector of the downstream industry but across the board. For several years the knowledge gap has been widening and the pool of skilled engineers has been shrinking. However, with reference to the Canadian oilsands and ‘A tough but worthwhile climb’, it may have solved its own dilemma as it stated that ‘oilsands development has created a surge of employment in First Nations communities in the oilsands area.’ Surely this is a route that could be explored further to help fill the human resource gap?

So, it appears, from the above comments at least, that 2012 has been successful in fulfilling the predictions made at the start of the year where the oilsands and heavy oil is concerned and, on that note, I have one final thing to say! On behalf of all the Hydrocarbon Engineering team, I’d like to wish you a happy and healthy new year and we hope you all enjoy the festive season!