The temperature gauge on the dashboard reads 34 degrees below zero as our truck winds through quiet Gratton Coulee near Wainwright, Alberta. There isn’t much that can lure people outdoors in this deepfreeze, but we were meeting two Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) field inspectors for a routine inspection on two newly commissioned pipelines.
As we make our way to the massive Hardisty Terminal—a major crude oil hub that is the starting point for pipeline exports to the states—we pass a dozen ranches where livestock huddle around structures, protecting themselves from the wind. It’s so cold that snow piles on the cows’ backs, refusing to melt even with the animals’ body heat. As we approach the site, it’s hard not to imagine that we’re descending into an extraterrestrial landscape; as far as the eye can see lay stark white skies and domed, snow-covered tanks filled with crude and other product.
We are welcomed by Darren Antos and Lawrence Newby of the AER’s Wainwright Field Centre, who are in a friendly competition with the Husky Energy employees to see who endured the lowest temperature on their commute. Antos took the title with -42. It’s clear that the comradery during this inspection is nearly as warm as the mittens I reluctantly shed in exchange for protective gloves.
Once the friendly competition concludes, Antos and Newby conduct a leak detection and repair system inspection. Below are some photos from that visit to the frozen field.
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