October 11, 2014 0 Comments Experience Working in Alberta's Oilfield

8th Month in Edmonton, 18th in Alberta

Overall I have progressed tremendously ever since I have been here, though I’ve had multiple setbacks. I’ve endured some terrible endeavours, but overall have made positive developments. My schedule has been pushed back due to misfortunes and my eventual decision to make my stay in Alberta a permanent one, but there is still plenty of time to play catch-up.

June 2013 was perhaps one of the more terrible months. The rain slashed my income as construction work is weather-permitting. My roommate suddenly wanted her bed back, so I had to order my own. The shipping company lost my bed for some time; it was only after repeat threatening to charge back my money through my credit card then I finally received the bed – 1 month later, with a broken leg. During that time I also was forced to move onto a new job, beginning with a jealous old man who perhaps grew jealous of a young guy driving a nicer car while he was driving an old rusted truck that looked like it may had been on its last legs, and then a series of other events that may have done the final push. I also was working on my Class 1 at the time and grew terribly ill; a bad infection took over my lungs and throat and I had breathing issues. Every night I could not sleep and would throw up multiple times. I also had to sleep on the floor as there was no bed.

I then worked on some jobs temporarily- one at a circus as a parking attendant, another at a concrete finishing plant, and then a third on a Hydrovac unit up north in Rainbow Lake.

The circus job paid pennies in comparison to my usual wages ($13/hr)- my 2 weeks of wages there equalled my wages earned in 2 days in the oilfield. Though it was interesting to work with and see a different group of people I’m used to- some young high school kids or university students who didn’t know what to do with their life yet and/or had little to no direction in life yet, and a few tradespeople just looking for pocket money before moving back to their usual line of work. I was also hit on by 4 girls at this job- something that usually never happened at my usual male-dominated jobs. Unfortunately none of them suited me, but then again I’m just here to work so I shouldn’t have been worrying about that anyways.

The concrete plant was dirty and sweaty work; the plant was dusty and heaters were on to dry the finished concrete faster while we worked in +30-35C weather, inside the plant wearing coveralls. Initially I was told that I would get overtime hours- this quickly proved to be false so again I made little to nothing compared to my usual wages ($18/hr; no OT). However, working here and at the circus bided me some critical time to finish my Class 1, and perhaps most importantly I met a connection that referred me to a retired company owner who would later then indenture me as an Electrician Apprentice- offering me a new future in Alberta.

As soon as I finished my Class 1, I was offered a job up in Rainbow Lake to operate a Hydrovac unit. Excited by the new opportunity, I drove 13 hours up north there after giving notice at the concrete job. Hydrovac work is not too hard- you dig holes with a pressurized water and vacuum system, though it can be a wet and muddy job. Rainbow Lake though was a different story. It was a small psuedo-town with a leisure centre, gas station, and a small overpriced general store. There was little to do and women almost non-existent. However then I received a better offer to run a Vacuum truck in Hinton, with a starting wage $5/hour higher, and potentially $10/hour more after demonstrating compendency. Working 90-100+ hours a week, this would had made a significant difference in income. So I gave notice, and then left for Hinton. Unfortunately somehow my prescription medication caused the drug test to test positive for estacy, so I did not have the job after leaving the previous one.

At that point I was once in job turmoil again, and had to return to Edmonton to work my casual cash job while I aggressively applied for work and then received 9 offers in 2 weeks. I received an approx. $3300 cheque from my week and half of Hydrovac work and relied on this to get by until then. I took the second offer to haul heavy equipment for road construction crews and to run dump and water trucks here in Edmonton. The pay is heavily dependent on how much work we had, but average was about $1500-2000/week. Up to now as of the time of writing I’m still working here and I work with a great bunch of guys, so no complaints, though I often wish I made oilfield money again. Construction season is ending though, so within a couple weeks I will have to return to the oilfield again, hoping to haul fluids or run a vac truck. It seems like a good job to have if you have a girlfriend/family to go home to, as I am usually home every night and the money is enough, but for now I need to buy my house, Porsche, and get back into investing/trading- certain beat-down junior miners in particular.

Getting the Class 1 was an expensive manuever and proved to be well worth it. Once you have a bit of driving experience together of that of the oilfield, finding work is many times easier and wages higher than that of being a labourer. I also wouldn’t have found my Electrician Apprenticeship if it weren’t for being able to run into the right person after having a long conversation about Vancouver housing and working in the trades and oilfield with a good man at my temporary concrete job. If I do have this trade one day, then I can have something to go back up to Fort McMurray with and not have to worry about Power Engineering anymore. Though I still wonder- would this turn to be a mistake? Would I make more money if I kept trying to get into Power Engineering?

At this stage, after getting back to the oilfield again this winter and hoping to work as many hours as possible (ideally 350+/month, though would settle for 300 if the wage is high enough), I see 3 possible routes:

(1) No spring breakup; continuous steady work well into the summer

If the amount of hours are still plentiful enough to warrant staying in the oilfield instead of returning to construction in the spring and summer (300+), then perhaps this is possible, though it is an extremely optimistic scenario. I realize that as being young and single, money is paramount at this stage of my life, so I should stay if this is the case… but then sometimes I think about making good money and having a better social life in Edmonton working in construction, even if it is slightly less (though more consistent) than that of the oilfield.

(2) Work until breakup, then return to construction

This would be the most realistic scenario. If this is the case, then I would keep working construction until I find work in the electrical trade as I’d be a registered apprentice by then.

(3) Work until breakup, and find electrical work

This would be preferable over the other 2 scenarios, as I could use the oilfield to make my house downpayment, and then work on my apprenticeship afterwords. However, one major worry is the amount of hours I would get in electrical work. Working anything less than 12 hours/day would significantly dent my income, even if wages are good- and I must keep my income as high as possible for mortgage purposes.

Work aside, my fitness is progressing at a very slow rate, but I am making gradual progress. In April 2014 I weighed 155 lb. approx and carried 13% body fat- now I weigh 144lb roughly and carry about 7-8%. Dieting proves to be a significant struggle when working 11-12+ hour days as it is difficult to eat perfectly, and coworkers like to eat out at lunch and grab beers sometimes after work, which slows diet progress down significantly. Also, I noticed lately that my metabolism slows when eating less- more than before when I weighed 170-186 last fall and winter. I have moved on from Gold’s Gym to Goodlife. Goodlife is on the way home from work usually and overall I like the gym.

Overall I have some worries but optimism for the next little while here in Alberta. Perhaps my greatest worry is not making enough money this winter and just wasting time, but I am excited about finally having something to show if my plans work out.