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Alberta oil sands projects on hold: impact on engineers?

A string of planned oil sands projects in Alberta have either been scaled down or postponed in the last few months.


A string of planned oil sands projects in Alberta have either been scaled down or postponed in the last few months.

According to the Globe and Mail, Royal Dutch Shell, for example, has postponed a 100,000 barrel-a-day expansion of its Athabasca oil sands mine. Shell has also withdrawn an application to build a 100,000 barrel-per-day project at Carmon Creek near the Peace River. The company is hoping to reduce costs before seeking approvals again.

Suncor has slowed construction of its $20.6 billion Voyageur oil sands project, delaying its completion by a year to 2013.

Petro-Canada, Teck Cominco and UTS Energy have deferred a decision on the Fort Hills mine, and Nexen and OPTI Canada have delayed a decision on the expansion of a project in Long Lake.

Have these hiccups affected engineering companies operating in the oil sands sector? AMEC, for example, has 1,000 employees in Alberta working in the oil sands business, providing everything from technical engineering, to simulation models, to geotechnical and environmental studies, foundations, and technical training.  According to a spokesperson at AMEC, the company has seen virtually no reductions in their order books.

The cause of the slowdown in oilsands projects is said to be the low price of oil and the tightening financial credit markets.