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LLB to benefit from Cenovus growth

The Cenovus Christina Lake SAGD plant near Conklin is in the early stages of a large expansion that will likely lead to increased need for services and labour from Lac La Biche.

The Cenovus Christina Lake SAGD plant near Conklin is in the early stages of a large expansion that will likely lead to increased need for services and labour from Lac La Biche.

The company has received approval from Alberta Energy Re­sources Conservation Board to expand the plant and increase production to 218,000 barrels per day from it’s current 18,000. The work will be done in three phases, with the first phase expected to be producing by 2014, and a projected completion date of 2019 for the final phase.

With that growth comes the need for more workers and services, and Cenovus is looking toward Lac La Biche for those needs.

“We try to hire locally as much as we can,” said Cenovus spokesperson Rhona DelFrari. But it’s not just local hiring the company is big on. They are also large contributors to the local marketplace.

In 2010 the company spent $90 million in Conklin, Lac La Biche and Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation. That investment will likely increase in the coming years, as the Christina Lake plant’s growth will translate into a need for more products and services, such as safety gear, road grading, and on-site medical staff, as well as engineers, operators, and other workers.

There are currently 1,200 construction workers on site, and 125 staff, with plans to hire 80 more staff. To fill the expected job vacancies requires properly trained workers, and to ensure the oil company has those workers, they work closely with schools like Portage College, said DelFrari.

“We definitely work closely with all the community colleges in the areas we work,” she said.

While the businesses of Lac La Biche will be able to capitalize on the growth of oilsands operations like Christina Lake, the workers may not call Lac La Biche home, as the site is about an hour and a half drive from the hamlet. Most of the workers live in camps on site, and while they don’t currently offer a bus service from Lac La Biche to the Christina Lake site, DelFrari said it isn’t out of the question as the plant expands.

“As we move forward, anything is possible,” she said, adding the long range plan for Cenovus operations is decades long.

“We want the local communities to benefit as well,” she said.