As a result, the company has declared force majeure, a contractual provision that TransAlta says will protect it from significant financial impact.
By making the declaration—something done in the event of major unusual disruptions—TransAlta says it will continue to receive some payments under a power contract and it will be protected from penalties.
TransAlta said it’s working with the manufacturer of the generator equipment to bring the 395 megawatt coal-fired Keephills 1 plant back into service.
The plant was one of several that underwent maintenance outages last year.
Salary gains continue to be strong in Alberta and Saskatchewan at approximately four per cent this year, compared to three per cent nationally, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s Mid-Year Pulse Check of its annual compensation planning outlook survey.
“Economic growth is uneven across the country. While employers are feeling the pinch in Ontario and other parts of eastern Canada, the oil and gas sector is pushing up wages in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” said Ian Cullwick, Vice-President, Leadership and Human Resources Research.
"Salaries in oil and gas this year are rising slightly faster than we projected, and labour markets in western Canada are tightening. We have heard from natural resources firms that virtually all of them are having trouble finding the skilled workers they need.”
Salary growth projections have been revised upwards in Saskatchewan (four per cent) and Alberta (3.9 per cent). The projections for Quebec (2.7 per cent), Ontario (2.5 per cent), and British Columbia (2.5 per cent) have been revised downward, and remain below the national average of three per cent.
View video commentary by Allison Cowan, Senior Research, Compensation and Industrial Relations.
The Conference Board conducted its Compensation Planning Outlook 2013 Mid-Year Pulse Check survey in December 2012. A total of 237 organizations replied, representing a response rate of 59 per cent of the 401 organizations that completed the Compensation Planning Outlook survey in the summer of 2012.
While most industry salary projections have changed little since last year, more than half of the companies in the food, beverage, and tobacco industries reported revising salary increases down in recent months. As a result, the expected increase across these industries has fallen from 2.9 per cent to 2.3 per cent.
More than two-thirds of respondents said economic conditions in 2013 will be comparable to those of 2012. A quarter think business conditions are likely to improve, while only seven per cent believe that conditions will deteriorate in 2013.
“Increasing Alberta’s productivity is essential to maintain our long-term economic prosperity,” said Deputy Premier and President of Treasury Board and Enterprise Doug Horner. “The work that Productivity Alberta does to help our industries increase productivity and maximize efficiency will show a return-on-investment for years to come.”
“Our Government is committed to helping small- and medium-sized businesses and boosting the competitiveness and sustainability of Alberta’s economy,” said the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women. “This investment in the Productivity Alberta initiative will help create opportunities for growth in key sectors of the economy while laying the foundation for job creation.”
Productivity Alberta is an industry-led, not-for-profit corporation mandated to enhance productivity improvement, increase innovation, and build a skilled workforce to improve the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of Alberta’s economy.
The Government of Alberta is providing Productivity Alberta with $7.3 million operating funds over three years, with funding levels for an additional two years to be determined. This includes the secondment of five employees for the first three years.
Western Economic Diversification Canada is investing $3 million towards Productivity Alberta to support firms in adding value to products and services, adopting innovative practices and technologies, and expanding their supply chains.
Formerly a branch of the Government of Alberta, Productivity Alberta was launched in October 2011. It serves as a “one-window” connection to the latest in productivity tools, resources and services, and its board of directors includes senior leaders from a variety of Alberta’s industry sectors. More information about Productivity Alberta can be found at www.productivityalberta.ca.
Shipments of manufactured goods rose to $6.4 billion in the first month of the year, a slight uptick of 0.9 per cent over the previous month. But compared to January of 2011, manufacturing activity in the province was higher by 16.5 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.
Nationally, manufacturing sales moved in the opposite direction, slipping 0.9 per cent to $49.6 billion, the second decrease in seven months. The decrease partly reflected a drop in production in the aerospace product and parts industry, primary metals, machinery and other transportation equipment industries.
Alberta’s manufacturing activity is concentrated in those industries that provide either inputs into the energy sector (eg. steel pipe, specialized equipment, etc.), or outputs (refined petroleum and chemicals). As a result, overall manufacturing values in the province tend to move in tandem with oil and gas activity. The occasional shut-down of a refinery or upgrader due to maintenance can interrupt that trend.
Provincial manufacturing also includes food packaging and processing (especially meat products) and forestry products such as lumber and pulp and paper, both of which have fallen in recent quarters.
The level of manufacturing shipments remains a small amount below the record highs set in early 2008. Still, the trend over the past two years has been clearly towards an expansion in overall sales. That bodes well for Alberta’s economy going into 2012.
“We believe that, if pursued by individual organizations in isolation, efforts to solve these problems are likely to be less pronounced or impactful than if pursued collaboratively across stakeholder domains,” says Van Zorbas, a partner in Deloitte’s Calgary office and national leader of its Human capital consulting practice for the energy and resources industry. “All stakeholders – from the producers themselves to their suppliers as well as governments and communities – need to be at the table.”
Balancing the people equation expands on Deloitte’s Gaining ground in the sands 2012 (released in fall 2011), which argued that the imminent labour shortage is the principal challenge for the oil sands and offered a range of potential next steps. Balancing the people equation provides definitive answers to the questions raised by outlining a number of specific opportunities for oil sands companies and other stakeholders to work together on labour issues.
“We have had numerous conversations with companies operating in this difficult business and all of them agree that finding solutions to their human resources needs is a top priority,” says Geoffrey Cann, Deloitte partner and oil & gas consulting leader. “We are also seeing more interest in working together to face shared challenges head-on. Take the Oil Sands Tailings Consortium (OSTC), for example – that kind of collaborative spirit is precisely what is needed to balance what we call the ‘people equation.’ ”
The report describes four categories of collaboration (inter-company, intra-company, institutional and community) to help meet talent demands while satisfying myriad stakeholder concerns and increasing both the economic and social value of the oil sands.
For a more detailed discussion of collaborative approaches to oil sands talent management, download the full report.
“My first choice is to have no workplace injuries or fatalities, no charges, and no convictions,” said Dave Hancock, Minister of Human Services. “However, when the law is broken, we need to send strong messages that the health and safety of Albertans must be a priority.”
More than $2.3 million of the $3.4 million in penalties in 2011 was in creative sentences paid to third parties, such as post-secondary institutions, training programs, rescue societies and other organizations that advance workplace health and safety. Individual creative sentences in 2011 ranged from $29,000 to $355,000.
A creative sentence provided the Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo office of St. John Ambulance with more than $330,000 for a new classroom training facility and to certify approximately 1000 high school students in Standard First Aid. “We are very honoured to be considered for these funds,” said Beverly Lafortune, Vice-President of Training and Community Services for St. John Ambulance, Alberta Council. “We’re committed to ensuring there will be plenty of positive outcomes from a tragic workplace incident.”
In 2002, Occupational Health and Safety legislation was amended to allow for creative sentences. Since 2006, over $10 million has been directed to organizations that promote workplace health and safety.
For a full list of OHS convictions and current charges before the courts, visit employment.alberta.ca/whs-prosecutions.
The updated records are now available on the Ministry of Human Services website. They provide a five-year snapshot based on information reported to the WCB by March 31, 2011.
Albertans can see the following information for each employer:
- number of lost-time claims;
- estimated number of workers;
- lost-time claim rates;
- number of fatalities, including those resulting from motor-vehicle and workplace incidents, and occupational diseases;
- whether the employer holds a Certificate of Recognition; and
- industry and province-wide lost-time claim rates for comparison purposes.
The records were first released in September 2010. A number of improvements were made to the 2011 update, including more detailed information about fatalities and a video to help users conduct searches.
The annual release of these records is part of the Alberta government’s multi-point plan for achieving greater transparency and accountability for occupational health and safety. The records include more information than is currently provided by any other jurisdiction in Canada.
The records can be found online at www.employment.alberta.ca/employerrecords.
Nathan Lemphers of the Pembina Institute says there’s a greater chance of more spills because more oil is flowing through older lines.
“Given the number of major pipeline spills that happened this past spring, and now this Penn West pipeline spill, there is a need for the Energy Resources Conservation Board to reassess how it manages aging infrastructure,” Lemphers said Friday.
“The ERCB needs to ensure that there is improved monitoring and maintenance of these aging pipelines and that they enforce existing pipeline safety regulations.”
The board estimates there are about 400,000 kilometres of energy-related pipelines criss-crossing Alberta.
Last month, a Penn West pipeline leaked 500,000 litres of watery oil near Swan Hills. The emulsion came from a pipeline connected to old oil wells.
The Calgary-based company has so far removed five million litres of water that was contaminated by the spill and 2,300 tonnes of soil. The ERCB said Friday that the site remains shut down and will not reopen until an investigation into what happened is complete.
Last April, Plains Midstream Canada reported a major breach of its 44-year-old Rainbow pipeline north of Peace River. About 4.5 million litres of oil escaped.
Kinder Morgan also reported a spill that month from its pipeline carrying diluted unprocessed oilsands crude near Chip Lake west of Edmonton.
The Pembina Pipeline Corp. reported a spill on its line near Swan Hills in July.
Cleanup and remediation of the Plains Midstream spill continues.
The conservation board is responsible for regulating pipelines that begin and end in Alberta. Pipelines that cross provincial boundaries or the U.S. border are regulated by the federal National Energy Board.
The Alberta regulator said pipelines in the province have never been safer. The latest (2010) statistics show 1.6 incidents per thousand kilometres of pipeline.
“Alberta’s pipeline system is very safe,” said board spokesman Darin Barter.
“The ERCB expects companies to operate pipelines safely and within all regulatory requirements regardless of age.”
The Pembina Institute said the breaches this year show the status quo isn’t good enough.
“This recent spill highlights the environmental risks of pipelines in Alberta,” Lemphers said. “More can and should be done to ensure this kind of spill does not happen again.”
According to the incident description, a contract oilfield maintenance company was hired by the operator to install insulation around the pumpjack header system and fuel gas line. The insulation was to be installed on the piping prior to winter freezing. The fuel gas line that was to be insulated was positioned below the pumpjack base. The pumpjack was elevated above ground level due to ground elevation issues and wellhead placement.
However, during the installation, the worker entered the danger zone and was struck on the head by the pumpjack counter-weight arm.
Enform made recommendation for corrective actions to prevent such incidents in the future:
- Maintenance must not be performed on moving equipment.
- Pumpjacks must be properly shut down and locked out prior to any maintenance operations that occur on a pumpjack or in close proximity to the pumpjack.
- During any maintenance or hazardous tasks being completed by workers, all hazards need to be addressed and properly eliminated or controlled.
- Recommended equipment modifications: Pumpjacks that are elevated in the field must have additional guarding installed on them to prevent workers from entering the zone where the weights swing.
- In the case of elevated pumpjacks, the guarding must be positioned so that no worker can access the zone from below. All companies must ensure there are procedures for locking out and securing energy sources and these procedures are communicated to all applicable workers. Companies may wish to check all pumpjacks and ensure that not only side guards are in place but that guarding is adequate if pumpjack is elevated and therefore provides opportunity for access from below.
According to Enform, reporting is important. Collaboration is a key strategy to reduce injuries, improve efficiencies, and promote positive working relationships. Enform issues Safety Alerts to reduce worker injuries in the Canadian petroleum industry. A Safety Alert can be issued about any industry equipment, process or practice, including: injuries, fatalities, motor vehicle incidents, near hits/misses or other losses; and any activity within the oil and gas industry.