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PATCH PROFILE (Originally appeared in the August 1982 issue of The Roughneck magazine)

The active dean of the Lloydminster oilpatch recalls his 34 years in heavy oil production.

Hamish Garland - from 1982 articleWhen talking about pumping oil in Lloydminster, you might say the more things change the more they stay the same. Over the years Hamish Garland, now [1982] the area production manager for the Murphy Oil Company in Lloydminster, has seen and tried just about every new gadget to come along to try and extract more of the thick, heavy Crude the area is famous for. Today, [1982] he notes, the operators are pumping oil basically the same way they have been for some fifty years.

A native of Rosetown, Saskatchewan, Hamish, or "Hame", was born the son of a banker. He recalls moving all over during the depression, closing banks from town to town. He took an engineering degree from the University of Saskatchewan and worked in the oil refinery in Rosetown to pay the bills during his school years.

In 1948, after the Rosetown refinery closed down, Hame started work in the Husky Refinery in Lloydminster and stayed in the plant until 1950. In 1951, he began surveying well sites for Husky and after two more years moved directly into the production department where he became involved directly with the wells in the areas of production and completion.

In those years, from 1953 to 1956, Husky had a large staff in Lloyd, completely autonomous from head office, including an exploration and geology department. However, in 1955-56, the company moved most of its staff out, leaving Hame, two field foremen and a part time secretary to produce the wells. They were separate from the refining department. The operation remained about the same until the early 1960's.

Hame explains Husky's success in Lloyd as being based on two factors. The first was their land position which involved a deal with the CPR on their freehold acreage. Basically Husky was buying up land around Lloyd when no other companies seemed interested. Some Barr colonists who originally settled the area also held freehold mineral rights on their property and many made deals with Husky when the oil company expressed interest in their leases. The other big advantage Husky had was provided by the Saskatchewan government when they allowed the drilling of "strat tests", a slim hole drilled on the road allowance to test the area's geology.

Husky punched down a large number of these wells at, a cost of only $3500 each and used the information to assess their reservoir prospects. The wells were logged, plugged and abandoned at a very low cost compared with conventional drilling.

At this time Hame was Husky's production foreman, and he recalls the early 1960's as quiet with a few development wells drilled. The market for their heavy crude was limited to the local asphalt market and whatever could be hauled out in tank cars when the paving season was active. In 1962, the company began considering an oil transmission line to the Interprovincial line near Hardisty. Husky experimented with a yo yo line which would ship heavy crude blended with condensates to the main line then send the condensates back for use again. The first line was completed in the winter of 1962-63, and when oil sales picked up permanently, Husky began building up their staff again.

The Husky office was an old warehouse behind the refinery and the original structure was added onto twice. By 1965, the company had landmen, production foremen, field superintendents, and a clerical staff. Drilling picked up to the point that they drilled 300 wells one year with a high success ratio due, to the previous "strat tests". Hame considers this quite a feat for the small. staff; as the area office handled everything except the exploratory drilling. Along that line, Hame recalls one well sunk to 6800 feet as part of the CPR land agreement, but this test proved disappointing.

The next few years were expansion years for Husky and therefore Lloydminster. In 1967 and 1968, Husky constructed four large EOR [enhanced oil recovery] projects using steam to heat the reservoir. They built batteries, gathering systems to Maidstone and Aberfeldy, and kept four drilling rigs busy at the same time. The original "yo yo" line was scrapped and additional lines were installed to handle the condensate since the production output was putting increased demands on the original line. The new office building was constructed in the late 1960's, but was only two stories high. The rest of the building was added years later.

In January of 1973, Hame left Husky to take his present [1982] position with Murphy Oil which had grown to become a significant operator in the area since the early '60's. Production was in the area of 1800 - 2000 b/d. Originally the Murphy’s office was located in a 24 by 44 foot trailer, and Hame oversaw the development of another organization in the years to follow. In 1971, Murphy joined forces with Canadian Reserve through the mutually owned subsidiary Manitou Pipelines and constructed the second oil pipeline from Lloyd to the Dulwich area to the IPPL line at Kerrobert, Sask.

Various methods of solving Lloyd's peculiar production problems of heavy oil laced with lots of sand have been tried over the years, and Hame recalls many of them. The first gravel pack in the area to contain some of the problematic sand was tried in 1954 when some California oilmen came north with what they described as the solution to Lloyd’s production problems. Hame maintains that, on primary production, when you shut off the sand, you shut off the oil. Halliburton gravel packed some of the wells using these slotted liners from the States but Hame says the success ratios were low. Among other things, the gravel crunched the pumps.

Another gravel pack was tried later in the Dulwich steam flood where windows were cut in the casing. The well was under-reamed; then gravel packed. Did it work? Hame recalls the production rate rose from 30 b/d to 150 as soon as the gravel pack was removed from the well. Another early gravel pack was tried on a well at Blackfoot, with two sections of liner screens, again with poor success. Today, [1982] Hame says you must live with the sand, as sometimes a well produces so much sand when first put on production that it fills the location tank half full.

In the early days operators would bail a well for three weeks, and once the sand production declined, a pump was installed. In fact, Hame maintains, you could tell how good a .well was going to be by how much sand came into the wellbore in the first few weeks of production.

Another area Hame recalls is the various types of downhole pumps that have been tried in the Lloyd area over the years. He once prepared a paper on the subject and besides the standard tubing pump and walking beam used in virtually all the wells today [1982] there have been some other methods tried.

Today, Hame says, all the oil companies are still looking for a better idea, and sand is still the main production problem. He cautioned, he has to be careful because every ten years or so a new crop of juniors in the engineering department end up trying the same thing that did hot work twenty or thirty years ago. Because Lloyd has been pumping for almost fifty years, the possibility of trying something again that doesn't work is rather high.

Hame feels Lloydminster has really come into its own of late, [1982] particularly in the last ten years. In the early days, when, Husky had only 60 or 70 producing wells, the field office would get a call to shut the wells down in the morning but then head office would call back at noon and, tell them to start up again because someone, somewhere, had bought, some asphalt. The pipeline stabilized production. rates for the first time in the early sixties, but for years it was simply an asphalt market, occasionally volatile and always seasonal.

With oil selling for $1.30/bbl., a "hay-wire" operation was all operators could afford for years, but increasing oil prices have enabled the oil companies to throw a little technology at the stubborn reservoirs. Hame claims there are billions of barrels of' oil around Lloyd and their recovery is simply a technological problem. Attracting competent technical people to Lloyd used to be difficult, but the town has grown and matured such that many people, like Hame, find it a pleasant place to live with a combination. of oilpatch income, a refreshingly small city, and access to the outdoors in the form of hunting and fishing.

Lloydminster has come a long way since "Hame" arrived in 1948 when promoters used to store the oil in big pits to convince investors it really was down there. But Hame is somewhat philosophical as to why some oil companies avoided the area in the past and present as they search the countryside for more conventional production. "In Lloydminster, oil doesn't gush: it drips!"