March 2001

Home | Past PEGGs | Ad Rates | Back to March Index | Contact


Safety Record Deterioriating

Re: Upgrader Keeps Its Distance, The PEGG, February 2001.

Nordahl Flakstad received some bad information on this article, in the section Another Part of Alberta Advantage. It left one with the feeling that Alberta technology, engineering and construction experience was a significant and positive contributor to the Shell Athabasca Oil Sands Downstream Project. If this were the case then safety would not be an issue, as was mentioned in the last sentence of the article.

The truth of the matter is that Alberta once maintained a high standard of safety. But in the past eight years or so the democratically evolved institutions of society which supported this high standard have been replaced by a smaller group, this one made up of appointees. In part, the new Safety Codes Act, which operates under the direction of these appointees, is the culprit. In part it has to do with big business management, or at least with the people of most influence on the project, being comprised of people outside Alberta.

Most Albertans, especially all skills and professions involved in construction, know that safety here in Alberta has deteriorated in the last decade. A newcomer to the Alberta culture wouldn't know this so his expectation of the Alberta worker would be low.

Low expectations yeild low results. Blaming the worker for low results is not justified and everyone knows where this leads us. In any case all of this has to do with the Alberta Disadvantage, not the Alberta Advantage.

Richard Eliuk, P.Eng.
Sherwood Park

Concerns Remain Unaddressed
About Sending Natural Gas South

Re: The presentation from John Ellwood, P.Eng., at the APEGGA Calgary Branch luncheon on Jan. 18, concerning the Alaska Natural Gas System. I was delighted with the timeliness of this topic, hoping that my concerns, as a Canadian, about the current gas supply situation and its origins would be addressed.

However, the speaker's starting point was the acknowledged need of gas in the south, and his advocacy of the Alaska Highway route as the most expeditious means to bring this about, under existing treaties and legislation.

I expressed my concerns from the floor following the address and asked whether such ideas would be given weight in future negotiations between Canadians and Americans. Mr. Ellwood indicated that, policy matters being in place, no such negotiations were foreseen.

I wish to reiterate my concerns, from the conviction that they should be forcefully brought to the attention of American planners as soon as possible. I would hope to convince APEGGA members, and possibly Mr. Ellwood himself, of this need. My ideas on how this dialogue or negotiation is to be carried out are not clear, other than that no level of interchange should be precluded.

Current thinking, as typified by Mr. Ellwood's presentation, makes no attempt to bring the Foothills Prebuild into relationship with the current gas supply shortage. I would suggest that they are related as in cause and effect. Though the prebuild is not the sole cause, it is the seminal event responsible for today's concerns, flowing from a fundamental contradiction in its mission.

On the one hand the prebuild, and its subsequent reinforcement in the market deregulation of 1985 and the Free Trade Agreement, initiated a rational, joint international approach to gas marketing on a continental basis. On the other hand it opened up access to gas from
Alberta surplus to Canada's needs, a gas "bubble," which for 18 years suppressed gas prices in Canada, and to some extent in the U.S., with little warning until recently that the bubble had been pricked.

This depressing effect on gas prices ensured that the full Alaska project would not be consummated while the bubble lasted.

From a Canadian perspective, two undesirable conditions have been created:

(1) Alberta's (read Canada's) proven recoverable gas reserves have been reduced by about a third, as of 1999, from approximately 65 trillion cubic feet in 1982, and probably will be cut in half by the time northern supplies are tied in. Where is the symmetry with the American objective to secure energy supply?

(2) Excess pipeline capacity (not Foothills' doing) has produced a spot price shock in Alberta. This was predictable -- The Alberta Energy and Utility Board's 1992 Gas Supplies report showed deliverability peaking in 2002, without taking into account the demands of the Alliance Pipeline. Where was the orderly transition to northern supplies promised by this long-term project?

H. Neal Collins, P.Eng.

APEGGA Statement to Trial
Important, Courageous

My thanks to APEGGA and President Sue Evison for making a public statement in the trial of the killer of Patrick Kent, P.Eng. Although the trial judge was of the view that the law could not be extended to include APEGGA as a victim, there's a good chance the judge did read it and that it had an impact on his final sentence decision.

APEGGA, I believe, has not been proactive enough in the past in making public statements that may not line up with the views of business owners. I applaud your courage in this initiative.

I wish the rest of our membership and Mr. Kent's family could have read how you and APEGGA supported him. It would give us all a stronger feeling of belonging to an association that cares about things that are truly important to its members. And it would give the family the solace that they are not the only victims left to carry on.

Rick Vigrass, P.Eng.

Periods, Commas, Spaces Etc.

I noticed that The PEGG has been using commas as triad separators (the separators in numbers larger than 999). According to the Canadian Metric Practice Guide by the Canadian Standards Association, we should use spaces -- not periods or commas, whose roles can be confused -- as triad separators.

Apparently many, if not most, countries use commas as decimals and periods as triad separators, while Canada has been using periods as decimals and commas as triad separators. The CSA advises us to use spaces to separate numbers into groups of three digits to ease reading them. Then, whenever we see a mark, whether it be a period or a comma, we will understand that mark to be a decimal.

To prevent causing a number to appear on two lines should the space happen to fall at the end of one line, we can use a non-breaking space. That's done by folding down the control and shift keys while hitting the spacebar.

According to that standard, the symbol for kilo is a lower case k. Your subheading in one story last month should read, Bitumen Travels 500 km, not Bitumen Travels 500 Km. Upper case starts with M for mega or million.

J. Marshall Gregory, P.Eng.

Editor's Note: We follow Canadian Press style, with some modifications. Using the space for the triad separation remains uncommon in Canada, and is therefore typographically awkward and ugly to the eye, which slows down a typical Canadian reader. The point on km is well taken. It was capitalized only because we use a first-letter-capitalization style in our headlines. If the word had been spelled out, it would have been Kilometres.

Home | Past PEGGs | Contact | Ad Rates | Back to March Index