Oil & Gas Employment

Oil & Gas Employment Oil sands companies provide direct employment for a workforce with engineering, technological, management, trade (often needing Interprovincial Red Seal), and administrative skills. Other kinds of workers are employed by contractors, especially construction.

The plants operate year round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so many of the jobs consist of shift work. Buses transport workers from Fort McMurray to oil sands surface mines and plant sites, but employees may also work off-site.

Workers do not start as labourers and work their way up in oil sands companies. Skills are acquired by completing certificate, diploma or degree programs. Power engineers and process operators are employed at oil sands plants.

Open Pit / Surface Mining

Companies that operate open-pit mines employ between 800 to 4,000 workers. Heavy equipment operators are required at mining sites. Experience is required in some cases.

In-situ (e.g. SAGD)

In-situ plants currently employ between 30 to 65 workers. Heavy equipment operators are seldom required at Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage(SAGD oil sands plants. Companies contracted to drill the SAGD well pairs are generally based elsewhere in Alberta. Although well pairs for SAGD operations can be drilled throughout the year, most core drilling is conducted during the winter between freeze up and spring thaw. There are more in-situ operations in development than surface mines.


Gas is produced from shallow wells in this area; however, more are located in northwestern Alberta. Fewer wells operate now as the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board ordered gas production wells shut-in on leases adjacent to deep oilsands deposits. The resulting low pressure created by the removal of natural gas is thought to hinder oil production at SAGD projects.

Conventional Oil

Conventional oil is defined as "petroleum found in liquid form, flowing naturally or capable of being pumped without further processing or dilution" by Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). While drilling companies are contracted to drill core samples to assess oilsands deposits and to drill wells for SAGD oilsands projects, there is not much work here.

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