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‘The Hub’ is Booming

Critical strategic importance to our province

The ARC Resources Ante Creek facility in Grande Prairie.

Grande Prairie is special, and critically important!

Many Canadian communities are often known by unofficial but popular and folksy aliases, slogans or nicknames. Niagara Falls is the “Honeymoon Capital of the World. ” Calgary is “Cowtown. ” Saskatoon is the “Paris of the Prairies. ” Churchill, Manitoba is the “Polar Bear Capital of the World. ” Edmonton is the “City of Champions, ” not for the Elks or the Oilers but for the community’s response to the 1987 Edmonton tornado.

And then there’s Grande Prairie. Vital. Vibrant. Enterprising. Gutsy. And on-the-go. Grande Prairie is “The Energy Hub of the North.” A booming business centre and a linchpin of Alberta’s energy sector.

While the entire region is synonymous with oil and gas and the gamut of related businesses and services, “Our economy is diverse, and we are surrounded by abundant industries such as oil and gas, forestry and agriculture,” says the upbeat Kim Pinnock, Economic Development director with the City of Grande Prairie.

“We provide a range of services and amenities to the region, including health, schooling, government, business support, recreation, retail, entertainment, restaurants and more. But there’s no doubt about it. Conventional oil and gas, coal and related services continue to innovate and act as a major economic driver in the region.”

She points out that Grande Prairie’s economic development priority is ambitious and dynamic. “Our Industrial Attraction Strategy focuses on enhancing our competitive advantage with respect to infrastructure, service levels and costs for commercial and industrial development. The identification and mitigation of barriers are increasing the attractiveness of the City for businesses, builders and developers. But we’re more, much more than that!”

Grande Prairie is a flourishing regional centre, providing shopping and services for residents of northwestern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia, and a regional trade area of nearly 300,000 people.

As with other important facts of business life, location-location is critical. Location is a key factor for Grande Prairie’s growth and “energy hub of the north” potential.

Grande Prairie is in the centre of two major liquid rich natural gas and plays, the Montney and Duvernay, two of the most significant plays in North America. Stats show that the Montney output has doubled since 2012 and now not only comprises a third of Western Canada’s natural gas production, but is projected to make up more than half of Canada’s total output by 2040.

The Duvernay extends under 130,000 square kilometres of Alberta, or 20 per cent of the province, and is rich in natural gas liquids, including condensate, which is often mixed with bitumen from the Alberta oil sands, so the bitumen can be thinned and shipped in oil pipelines.

In business terms, the Grande Prairie market is huge. Its sheer size and the limitless opportunity are a boost for business and economic stability, keeping companies and employees working, even during recent periods of global economic uncertainty.

Industry leaders and analysts explain Grande Prairie’s dynamics as an enviable edge. Ongoing new investment and interest in value-add and diversification opportunities, leverage the region’s existing strengths.

Jordan Tidey, the County’s director of Economic Development, is gung-ho and proud, pointing out that Grand Prairie more than lives up to its catchy ‘energy hub’ reputation.

“As a regional service hub, we are home to many major oil and gas regional headquarters and oilfield service companies like Pembina Pipeline, CSV Midstream, ARC Resources, Canadian Natural Resources, Haliburton, Schlumberger and Trican.

“Also, many local entrepreneurs operate out of the region, servicing oil and natural gas activities in northwestern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia.”

‘The energy hub of the north’ also has extensive bragging rights about the many investment opportunities in traditional energy exploration, service and supplies, geothermal, waste management and remediation, as well as clean technology innovation. Being attractive, particularly for energy sector investment, is a key Grande Prairie priority.

“The Energy Support Services sector is the strongest target industry for attracting drawing investment, with Grand Prairie’s high concentration of workforce and businesses. Energy Support Services is a well-established sector in the region, with well-defined products and services,” he says.

Trends show that Grand Prairie County has a significant competitive advantage through its proximity to the liquid natural gas plays. It allows businesses to capitalize on the area’s natural resources and build an ecosystem around oil and gas extraction. “We attract significant interest from the petrochemical manufacturing sector, which will drive investment and development for decades.”

Tidey emphasizes that the County also has a large supply of investment-ready industrial land and the Economic Development team actively works to identify and promote the many sites. “Important considerations such as land use zoning, access to transportation (roads and rail) and infrastructure servicing (both municipal and private) were considered as factors affecting future development. The sites are also within existing approved Area Structure Plans, enhancing their investment readiness since they have already been through the land use approval process.”

Sean Calder, vice president of Field Operations with ARC Resources, echoes the Grande Prairie enthusiasm. “It is a city full of energy (excuse the pun), growth and opportunity that embraces entrepreneurship and innovation.

“There are many reasons, but since the Montney is one of the most prolific resource plays in the world, the key features include a close proximity to high-quality resources, the availability of skilled labour, as well Grande Prairie’s access to research and innovation.”

He cites Northwestern Polytechnic (NWP), which provides a research and innovation hub and supports industry training needs by invaluably providing pre-employment programming, skills development and safety training.

For CSV Mainstream, the industry-leading and Alberta-based company offering full services for complete midstream solutions, Grande Prairie is about resources, great potential and people. “With an increasing array of producers in this active corridor, there is a growing need for reliable gas processing services in the region,” says CSV’s upbeat CEO, Daniel Clarke.

“We have been operating in the area since 2014, and have been focused on this region since our inception. We now have five operational assets in the region, with a sixth under construction.

“The Grande Prairie area is a valuable location for several reasons,” he adds. “Oil and gas has been central to the Peace Region economy for generations, but with much of the shale gas expansion unfolding in the region, Grande Prairie has boomed even more.

“For CSV Midstream, people are also a significant Grande Prairie factor. There are thousands of workers employed in the oil and gas industry and these are extraordinarily skilled individuals are available for hire,” Clarke says. “From the CSV perspective, the ability to hire local individuals who are skilled in our industry means that we can ensure the continued reliability of our operations, while contributing to the stability and strength of the local economy and community.”

ARC’s Sean Calder is enthusiastic about “Grande Prairie is a vibrant area that is of critical strategic importance to our province. Not only its proximity to the two most significant natural gas plays in North America, but also for Grande Prairie’s strong and diverse regional economy, its young and growing population, and the many opportunities for investment in clean technology innovation. It is well positioned for a thriving future.”

He emphasizes that, through strong partnerships within industry, the community and Indigenous communities, ‘Energy Hub of the North’ is a slogan which fits Grande Prairie perfectly.