Non Destructive Testing in Canada's Oilpatch - experiences?
July 24, 2013 12:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering a career switch, and I'm looking at taking a certification (or more) in non-destructive testing, with an eye to working in the oilpatch. I'm curious about how work is structured and what the conditions are like. Any input would be appreciated.

I've been working in an industry that I don't enjoy and I'm ready to make a move. I have a bit of savings and I'm looking to work somewhere with some more flexibility. I've run into a few people working in the oilpatch who work for (say) a month at a time, living dormitory-style. They then have a month or so off.

I've done some mag particle and ultrasound testing in a previous life (though I have no certification). The next certification course coming up in my area is in radiography (x-ray). I'm wondering what the life of a non-destructive tester looks like in today's oilpatch. If possible I'd like to avoid being permanently tied to a place like Fort McMurray, which is why I mention the folks I've met who worked a month on/month off or so.

Note that I don't have any work experience at this point and would be starting at an entry level.

Any input, contacts, or links to more information would be much appreciated.
posted by jpziller to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Way up north here we use Triquest NDT. If you were to email Karen at the location at the bottom right of that page and tell her you're looking to break into the field, she might be able to give you some advice. She's been doing it for decades, is highly regarded and super nice. They have offices in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lloydminster so there would be a wide range of oilpatch locations you could be sent to. As I understand it, the money is excellent -- the bills I get from them are a decent indication!
posted by mireille at 12:35 PM on July 24, 2013

This is not technically an answer to your specific question re: non-destructive testing, but regarding the oilpatch...

Be male. Being a woman and working in the patch is extremely difficult.

Stay calm. Apparently working for a month in the back of nowhere with no amusement and piles of dangerous deadly equipment creates a tense camp. If you think you will be bothered by many other men around you all of the time who are, by the end of your stay, all pretty wound up (in every sense imaginable), then this is not for you.

As far as I know, the usual rotation is six on, two off (but this might just've been that camp, I guess). The pay is extraordinary. Oilpatch personnel don't have to base out of Fort Mac, but the highway from FM to Edmonton is dangerous, especially in winter conditions, and there are lethal accidents on it constantly so I don't know if you'd enjoy driving it much. With a big truck and good sense you could take it.

Lloydminster is a horrible, awful, no-good place to live. Avoid it. Edmonton is marginally better and will at least give you access to anything you'd want (at lower rates than "I know you make oil money" Fort Mac).

I'm told that it is very nearly impossible to carry on a relationship while you are working in the oilpatch, because it's like being a stranger - you're just not home enough. The legends of cheating spouses and significant others are, well, legendary. If you have someone who's already used to LDR, it might be okay.

In the end, I think of the oilpatch as a short-term thing - a way to make piles of money in a short amount of time, and maybe you can climb the ladder out of field work and into an office in Calgary (where you will still make lots of money and not have to shower with a hundred other men).
posted by Nyx at 2:46 PM on July 24, 2013

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