You are here

A lot goes on right under our feet. In fact, part of a multi-billion-dollar industry is being constructed and maintained, and its product is being transported right below us. Pipelines have been transporting oil and gas for over a century, zigzagging across Canada and throughout the rest of North America, but who are the minds (and hands) behind such a huge operation?

It's not just pipe-layers and engineers that make up the entire pipeline body, but a whole gamut of opportunities from business and project management to field operation and procurement'all with the goal to maintain the pipelines operation. But before it all starts and prior to its construction, a significant amount of research and field work is required.

As a surveyor, you'd be out in the field taking measurements and telling companies that have contracted us where they can legally put their pipelines, says Lauren Isherwood-Baingo, HR advisor at McElhanney, a Calgary-based surveying and geomatics company.

She explains that surveyors need an affinity for the outdoors, must be technically and mechanically inclined, and also have the ability to work quickly and precisely. Our crews are working in two-person crews, and the survey assistant is supervised by a party chief, who is basically responsible for the instruction and ensuring their safety.

For Nathan Sikkes, project land surveyor at McElhanney, he takes on two distinct roles in pipelines work'one being business-related and the other with more of a technical focus. In the office, he manages field work and oversees quality control which includes collecting data, finding other potential projects, and sending proposals.

After you win any particular contract, that's when the real work starts, he explains. From the surveying side of things, that means lining up your personnel and, typically, pipeline projects have a lot of exploration.

The mapping department starts off and ensures the work to be conducted is aligned with the clients' requests. That could be pipeline routes, land owners, and land types, lists Sikkes. Once the client has come up with the best route from a paper perspective'because there's only so much you can do in an office'we'll go to the field. He organizes survey crews who are responsible for preliminary assessment of the placement of potential pipelines to determine the best location in terms of cost, environmental impact, and construction.

We have a lot of moving parts, says Sikkes of work both in-office and on the field. The real challenge, I'd say, is to make sure everything is moving collectively towards your end goals.

With lengthy projects taking years to complete, Isherwood-Baingo explains that while the job market in pipelines is very strong, they're constantly in short supply of workers. I would say the number of people that are graduating out of geomatics programs in Canada is very low and that occupation notoriously suffers lack of enrolment, she says. It's an engaging job in that you get to see different things everyday and you're not doing the same thing day in and day out. You get a chance to travel a lot which can be really great.