There is a new Alberta vibe happening in the west-central Alberta and northeast BC area.
Rocky Mountain House, an Alberta town about two hours northwest of Calgary, is booming again, more than three years after the oil price collapsed and took Canada’s most vibrant energy sector along with it.
Today, fracking rigs line up on the shoulder of the highway as a steady stream of trucks hauling heavy equipment makes its way into the heart of the Duvernay Formation, one of the energy sector's hottest plays. Prab Lashar, executive director of the local chamber of commerce, told CBC News she began to notice an upswing in activity some months ago.
"In late spring, the campgrounds started getting packed with oil and gas workers," Lashar said. "And then the trucks started moving in, and by the end of summer it was full of trucks."
Major energy companies, including Chevron, Shell and Encana, are staking their place in the Duvernay, a formation that stretches across much of central Alberta and is estimated to hold more than three billion barrels of marketable crude, six billion barrels of natural gas liquids and more than 75 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to Canada's National Energy Board.
Industry analysts say new horizontal fracking technology means all those hydrocarbons are now cheaper and easier to get to market. And those lower costs are why capital is flowing into the Duvernay and other traditional formations like the nearby Montney, instead of to the more capital-intensive operations in the oilsands. Capital is already pouring into the area and about $30 billion is expected to be invested next year, with as much as 20 percent of that being directed towards the Duvernay, according to CBC News.
In Rocky Mountain House, the impact of that spending is already apparent. Hotels and restaurants are full, and signs looking for workers are already springing up around town. Wendall Mason oilsands manager at Pidherney's construction, told CBC News he is looking to hire more people. "We are flat out," Mason said.
"Things are really flying." It is a huge change compared with the same time last year. "The Duvernay play has been really big for us, obviously, all the way from Grande Prairie to Fox Creek," Mason says, referring to a 200-kilometre stretch of activity.