The oil business has been a lucrative one here for 40 years since the discovery of a major oil field at Rainbow Lake in 1965.
The estimated petroleum reserves in the region are impressive, accounting for 36 per cent of the natural gas and 80 per cent of the light-medium crude oil in the northwestern part of the province.
Those stats aren’t expected to change anytime soon, thanks to increased exploration activity and production offsetting any potential decreases in natural reserves in the area. There are plenty of long-term prospects — headlined by the proposed Arctic Gas pipeline and exploration activities in the southern portion of the Northwest Territories.
Industrial activity is focused primarily in Rainbow Lake and Zama City: Husky Oil operates a large natural gas plant near Rainbow Lake and co-owns/operates a co-generation facility with ATCO Electric.
Apache Canada operates three gas plants near Zama City and some 400 producing wells. High Level also has close ties to the industry, acting as a service centre to the industry.
The estimated regional production volumes for 2002 included 11.8 million barrels of oil. This accounted for 5.1 percent of oil production in Alberta.
More than 400 people (six percent of the regional labour force) work directly in the oil and gas industry year-round. This number swells during the peak winter exploration and drilling season, when upwards of another 5,000 transient workers come to the area to work in the industry.