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Northern Lights College Simulated Well Site Training Facility ramps up operations

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“It was very exciting for the students to have access to a commissioning project like this because the work they are doing now that enables startup of the site gives them the big picture of how a plant operates overall,” said NLC’s Associate Dean of Trades and Apprenticeships Robert McAleney.

“The Gas Processing Operator (GPO) portion of the Power Engineering program has been using the well site as a comprehensive lab to enhance the students’ experience by tying together practical labs in inlet separating, dehydration and sweetening of raw natural gas plus commissioning the pump jack,” he added. “They take a piece of equipment, disassemble it, analyze it for repairs, then reassemble it and reinstall the equipment into simulated service.”

NLC’s Heavy Mechanical Trades students were also involved in getting the pump jack and triplex pump up and running by completing thorough inspections and repairs of the internal combustion engines.

Students from the Oil and Gas Field Operator (OGFO) use the pigging station as part of their curriculum by running pigs to clear the lines – a pig is a piece of equipment that looks like a plug and is used in clearing pipelines of blockages or corrosion to ensure smooth operation and safe working conditions.

Part of the commissioning process also included upgrades to the site such as installation of air compressors and air lines, and the installation and startup of explosion-proof CataDyne heaters used in the oil and gas industry. Students also took part in the safe use of the flare stack by igniting and monitoring operations.

The simulated training facility is an exceptional and unique training tool for students, said NLC’s Power Engineering instructor, Mike Seinen, who has 25 years of industry experience and two years of experience as a facilities officer who reviewed and approved well sites provincially.

“We’re just very, very fortunate to have this training facility available to our students,” said Seinen. “This facility is extremely valuable for students wanting to join the oil and gas workforce in northeast B.C.”

“If we didn’t have an onsite high pressure boiler, the students would have to undergo an additional year of training elsewhere to get their practical hours on the equipment, but this allows them to enhance their skills and makes them job ready, which is why industry has great interest in NLC’s trades and apprenticeships students.”

“This year I have male and female students from Prince Rupert, Prince George and Vancouver in addition to local students who are already being sought after by industry, and it’s because they get the additional training on this facility, which is like one big Meccano set,” smiled Seinen.

The simulated training facility was donated by industry in 2012 and has been used for a variety of applications other than training, such as school tours and backdrops for photography and video.  The facility has also been useful to NLC’s Applied Business Technology (ABT) students, many of whom find work as administrative assistants in local oil and gas companies.

“We bring the ABT students through the training facility so that they can familiarize themselves with the various sites and different pieces of equipment and learn the oil and gas terminology,” said Seinen. “It really helps give them a visual of operations and at the end of the day it is easier for them on the job.”

With the commission of the facility due to be completed by the end of June, an extensive range of program and course offerings are planned for September, including short courses from the College’s Workforce Training Department (WFTR).

“We are continuously working with industry to determine training needs,” said WFTR coordinator Paige Karczynski. “Our goal is to provide industry and the public with the courses they need and keep “growing it local.”’

A variety of WFTR courses that are geared towards the oil and gas industry range in length from one to five days or two weeks. Content such as Enhanced Oil Recovery, Pre-Employment Floor-hand Training for Service Rigs Boot Camp, Coiled Tubing Well Servicing Blowout Prevention, Fall Protection, and more are in the planning stages for delivery.

For a full WFTR course listing or more information, visit: or call 250-785-6981, ext. 6257.