Heavy Oil Science Centre - Overburden

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Heavy Oil Ready For Prime Time

by Franklin L. Foster, Ph.D.

"It would be a dream come true", says Vic Juba, one of the principals bringing a world class Interpretive Centre to Lloydminster. Juba, and friend Bill Kondro, were part of a group which fifteen years ago began talking about a Centre to salute the achievements in the Heavy Oil Industry. However, the idea "sanded in" and remained just an intriguing possibility for "someday".

Then, about two years ago, the idea got a frac-like shot of high powered energy when the Lloydminster Oilfield Technical Society (OTS) authorized a sub-committee to pursue it. Leading that charge were Kirby Hayes and friends, Bob Day and Glenn "Otis" Rusling, and soon things were happening. Hayes exemplifies the optimism of the group; "When I see our OTS Heavy Oil show here in September being sold out, expanded and then sold out again - when I see CIM symposiums attracting capacity crowds, when I see CIM partnering with Lakeland College to offer leading edge short courses in Heavy Oil, and when this Interpretive Centre opens, I see Lloydminster being recognized as the Heavy Oil centre of the world!"

It was such enthusiasm which led to an invitation to Westwind Design, of Calgary, a company with lots of experience in creating state-of-the-art exhibits, displays and interpretive centres to prepare a detailed proposal. Foster Learning Inc., of Lloydminster, supplied information research and development. A web-site was created as a means for sharing information and developing ideas. [see www.LloydminsterHeavyOil.com] Almost 2,000 sq. ft. of space was ear-marked at Lloydminster’s Barr Colony Heritage and Cultural Centre. In short, the idea began to be clothed in reality.

Following a public meeting in August 1997 to review a detailed proposal, including drawings; fund raising was kicked off by an OTS donation of $150,000. Other donors quickly caught the excitement and today over two-thirds of the $748,000 budget has been raised, entirely from the industry itself.

Industry only fund raising is just one of the unique elements of the Centre as envisaged by its design team. The Centre will explain and inform visitors about every aspect of the heavy oil industry - from exploration and drilling, through workovers and transport, to refining and community impacts. It will convey its message using interactive displays, computer simulations, multimedia presentations, and Internet connectivity. In short, it will be state-of-the-art. Everyone who experiences the Centre will come away inspired by the innovations and contributions of those who faced down the challenges of heavy oil, whether those visitors are school children or industry insiders. As well, while there will be a deserving tribute to the pioneers and builders who began the heavy oil industry, the Centre will also portray the exciting happenings of today, such as directional drilling, enhanced recovery techniques, and breakthroughs in pumping technology.

Despite the partial slowdown in the oil sector, Juba and Hayes are more excited than ever about completing the fund raising efforts and being able to announce the official "spudding in" of construction of the Centre. While Juba says he has had expressions of interest from the Government of Saskatchewan, the Centre may still be financed entirely by the industry itself. Hayes stresses that individual donations as small as $1,000 will be accepted and will contribute to the successful launch of the project. All contributors will be acknowledged in several ways over the life of the project.

"When people recognize all that’s happening in Heavy Oil, and the Interpretive Centre opens as the centrepiece of all that is happening, there’s going to be one heck of a lot of people wishing they had been on board," says Hayes. And it’s hard to resist Hayes’ optimism. The OTS Heavy Oil Science Centre promises to be a major event in the development of the heavy oil industry. When an industry is mature enough to salute its past, celebrate its present, and build a legacy for the future, then that industry has definitely come of age. Heavy Oil has been there, and done that!