August 8, 2014 0 Comments Experience Working in Alberta's Oilfield

6th Month in Edmonton, and now we say goodbye, until next time

rig yardAfter my time on the Service Rigs working around Drayton Valley, Whitecourt, Edson, and other surrounding areas, I arrived in Edmonton with the intent of establishing a base for myself, finding whatever work I can (though making as much as possible), and then working on the Class 1 Trucking license as I get myself ready to work in the oil patch once again.

I was after that license because of the abundance of jobs available after one holds it- from traditional truck delivery jobs to delivering loads across the country, and to the glorious high-paying oilfield work that requires driving large equipment with that license. I also learned that in order to have work all the time and to make money, one must be valuable to the economy, and the first step to being so is to be skilled. I did not have the connections to start a trade, and school was out of the question at the time. I had 5-digits of cash banked however, and the quickest and most effective way to become skilled, given my work experience, was to get the Class 1 license.

I worked in construction- beginning with general labour and grading work, and then moving on to being a Packer and Rock Truck operator/driver. I also occasionally played with the skidsteer. I enjoyed driving equipment, though as I may mentioned in my previous blog that work eventually slowed down admist the heavy rain, and eventually gone because of issues with a co-worker and personal issues. Work days were typically 11-13 hours in length, 6 days a week- though on Saturday I was only there for 8.5 hours.

I went to the gym semi-daily at Gold’s Gym- hitting all my muscles, and dieted for the duration of the job to reduce my body fat percentage to look better. My diets were focused on first consuming adequate protein and then as little carbohydrates as possible. Carbohydrates are an easy way to ruin a diet as they can be heavy in calories but not very filling. Typical gym sessions were about 1.5-2 hours. Every workout always began with 1-2 sets of 180-230lb squats with 12 reps, then 2-3 sets of 120lb chest with 12-21 reps, and the remainder depending on the day. Currently at the time of writing I am approximately at 8-10% body fat; I started at around 13-15 before I moved here.

I did my Class 1 Trucking training at Cameron Driver Education- typically 2 lessons/week, though on some weeks I was unable to get lessons. Each lesson consisted of 2 hours. I did mine after work, as my shift was typically 7-7. Driving schools were usually very busy; I could not start training until late May. Before one can begin however, an air brake course ($200 approx.) and 1L license was required… it was somewhere around $20 to test for each. The Airbrake course only entitles one to write the test; it didn’t grant the endorsement. The test was not difficult, but tricky; it was very easy to error. I failed it 3 times before I passed, though I was working 12 hour days so studying was minimal and mentally I was exhausted.

A typical day in my life here looked like this:

5:30AM: Dry clothes from washing machine last night, brush teeth, shave, make and eat breakfast, pack food for work. Take medications and supplements.

6:15AM: Grab clothes out of dryer, get dressed, and drive to work.

7AM – 7PM: Work

8PM: Go to the gym for 1.5-2 hours, or just shower and check up on finances, news, etc. on the laptop, and/or get groceries, if it’s my off day

10PM: Shower if just back from the gym. Throw clothes into washer, organize room, fold clothes from the morning drying. Brush teeth, put on sunscreen and moisturizer, and then go to sleep at around 11-11:30PM.

Most trucking schools charge around $130/hr; that was my rate. Big Rig charged $120 but I was unable to book lessons. The total cost of training depends on one’s learning rate and effectiveness and experience- I did my road test after 18 hrs of training ($2340), but failed the first time because I was a bit weak at backing-in parking and had bad habits such as driving in the centre of unmarked roads and speeding. To test required a $196.10 permit from the Alberta registry and a medical examination from a doctor that was $80. The permit was one-use; failing required re-purchase. The test was roughly 2 hours, so you paid your $260 to your driving school. It is your choice whether to have a warm-up session of 2 hours before the test ($260). I eventually passed with flying colours with one more lesson to correct my bad habits and to brush up my parking skills. In total the license cost me roughly $3500-4000, but I have heard of others taking twice as much.

I was fortunate to find a driving-related job utilizing the license the week before I tested, and was offered to go work immediately after I passed. I accepted the offer and am heading up north to Rainbow Lake to be a Hydrovac Operator next Monday. It’s an unstable but good paying line of work for someone starting out; an usual week of work would gross roughly $3000/week. Housing was provided, so no rent cost! There was 6+ weeks of work already lined up, so I purposely requested to work 6 weeks continuously. This would allow me to very quickly earn a condo downpayment, learn a lot about the work, and I wouldn’t have spare time to waste money in the bars and restaurants. The work speeds up significantly in the winter, so I should be making more… I am very excited. I have my intents to trade penny stocks with part of my paycheques, in particular with the junior gold miners as summer is typically the Bear Season; it is a good time to buy when they are low. I also may play with some Oil and Gas companies.


(Photo by 109 st. and Whyte Ave)

Work and money aside, one of my favourite places was Whyte Ave. I liked to sit around in the bars and restaurants there and try new drinks and food. One of my favourites was the Mohito with a medium-rare steak – I found medium-rare to offer good taste. I enjoyed partying there with my coworkers there on Friday and Saturday nights. I had good times with some women I met there; I had fun. Those times will definitely be missed once I am working 84-100hrs/week again up north.

The West Edmonton Mall wasn’t as large as I found it to be, and I happen to be a very selective shopper. I mostly bought clothes from Guess and Armani, occasionally cheaper ones from Bluenotes. I usually was there every other day however because of the 24-hr gym I had a subscription to.

I learned of a weekly car meet at the Tim Horton’s near Whyte Ave. and across United Cycle. I met a few people there. Unfortunately though there are a few ‘nice’ cars, most of that place was clustered with ‘ricers’- kids with old Japanese cars with loud annoying mufflers, coloured wheels, and other modifications that didn’t improve performance and weren’t overly exciting to look at. I took little interest.

There are numerous speed cameras in the city, so it’s advised that you take it easy in town as they are everywhere. I used to have the Escort Passport 9500ix radar detector that knew where all of them were… I miss that thing! Definitely very helpful to have that one, or even better, the Escort Passport Max to remind you when you’re about to run into one. The cops also love to catch people on the Anthony Henday highway. As tempting it is to go fast on it (which people do so very regularly), if you don’t have a radar detector I’d take it easy, especially near the month end.

I felt very lonely during my time in Edmonton. Not knowing anyone at first made it even more difficult to meet anyone, as bars didn’t really work for me either. I am a young person, so my experience on the dating sites were not very fruitful. From my personal experience I found most young girls on them to only want attention and don’t want anything to do with you. I have received some positive feedback (e.g. told I was handsome) and obtained multiple phone numbers throughout my time on Plentyoffish, but gradually the girls would stop replying and usually wouldn’t bother going on a date with you. Once in a long while you would find someone who wants to see you, though, nevertheless it was a very low ratio. I have had some encounters with some women I met on there (some sexual), but in the end nothing really flourished. However, my experience may not be an accurate reflection of the online dating experience, as I am a young Chinese male (21) and most of the girls I spoke to were white girls on the more attractive side, some very attractive blondes- very unusual combination, and most women I’d end up finding some interest in would get heavy attention from many men.

Perhaps one thing that makes me most sad is the high turnover of the women in my life. One moment we would be holding each other against the wall kissing, and then never see each other again… Many times I genuinely wanted to get to know her better and would never pursue any other girl at once, but that opportunity was rarely offered to me.

I also was and am a very blunt person- I usually am fairly quick to ask for a date and if I find a girl is cute, I am quick to tell her that, and if we get along, I grow flirty in a short amount of time, though I don’t rush sex. Some girls like men who are direct, while some don’t… Personally I prefer that way as it cuts the time wasted on both ends if things don’t work out. I also never chase women; if one stops responding to me repeatedly, I’d stop talking to her as I’d see it as a sign of non-interest… generally I’ll ask for a date only once or twice, and if there isn’t any effort on the other end then I’ll move on. As for in-person, I have met a few girls and obtained their numbers, but they usually had a boyfriend or were recently broken-up… bad luck. Overall I shouldn’t be dating though and should be making money in the oil patch, so I don’t spend time chasing anyone.

Perhaps one aspect of affection that worries me is being trapped. I have met numerous people in relationships, but would then be afraid to go up north to work away from home in fear of losing their dates/loved ones. I want to have my career, houses, investments, and nice cars at a very young age… and nothing will ever change that dream. It’s easier to work many weeks in a row all over the province when you are single, providing you’re able to bear the isolation. Occasionally I worry about falling for someone, and then lose the opportunity to make the oil patch money.

Overall my intentions are to work up north as long as I can in driving-related jobs until I get into either Power Engineering or a trade. Build up as much cash as possible, pay down debts, buy a house, use tenants and myself to build equity and then get a home equity line of credit to take sudden financial hits and even fund my investment/trading ventures. I feel this should be reachable within the next year if things go well. Picture-perfect timeline would somewhat be like this:

Year 1 in Alberta: Learn and experience the economy, culture, and people; learn how to make money here, get to know people, and try doing what people here enjoy. Establish a base and gain experience. Get skilled.


Result: Established connections, essential safety tickets, the Class 1 Trucking License, my BMW 335i Convertible, and learned that:

(1) a huge, lifted 4×4 pickup isn’t a necessity

(2) getting rich from the oil here takes time; you start from the bottom

(3) never buy brand new vehicles because of heavy depreciation

(4) love and money don’t always go together

(5) the money is in the trades, but overtime is essential to making money

(6) the oil patch is extremely unstable; save your money

Gross income was just about $80,000.



(1) Invest, trade (using both fundamental and technical analysis), and save proceeds from working Trucking/Operating jobs up north. Make as much as possible

(2) Pay down high-interest debts

(3) Save liquid assets/cash to absorb 3-6 months of possible unexpected financial hit(s)

(4) buy a new house; use tenants to build equity

(5) get a home equity line of credit for safety and to fund further trading and investment expenditures

(6) possibly buy another vehicle. Considerations: Porsche 911 Turbo, Porsche Cayenne/BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne Turbo/BMW X5M/Mercedes ML63 AMG. This is providing I work steady and the market cooperates…

(7) Successfully either start a trade, or get into Power Engineering

And then within the next 3-5 years, I’d like to have a trade finished, or have the Second class PE done. I would like to have a Lambo, or a Ferrari, and a second house, by the time I’m 25 or a bit older. That’s asking for a lot… I know. But then if it took me about a year to get into a $70-80k MSRP car, surely I could get into a $300-400k one in 5 years, as I’d be much more experienced and skilled by then?