December 28, 2015 6:54 pm
Updated: December 28, 2015 9:14 pm

Peace River looks to a future without multi-billion-dollar oilsands operation

WATCH ABOVE: Over the past year, companies have shelved billions of dollars worth of planned investments in Alberta's oil patch. Shell shut down an oilsands development in the Peace River area and that decision will hit local businesses hard. Tom Vernon reports.


EDMONTON — As Albertans prepare to turn the calendar to 2016, communities across the province are facing a much different economic reality than they did just one year ago.

Over the past year, world oil prices have slumped below $40 U.S. a barrel, thousands of jobs have been shed in the sector and companies have shelved billions of dollars worth of planned investments. One example is Shell’s Carmon Creek development near Peace River.

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“It was sort of a kick in the teeth to the community,” said David Martin, who owns a menswear store in downtown Peace River.

“There were a lot of local contractors, a lot of local businesses that sort of anticipated the growth and spent some money, and bought equipment.”

Among the businesses hoping to cash in on the project was Channico Machine and Millwright, which specializes in oilfield equipment.

“It could have been very positive,” Channico owner Frank Light said a few weeks after Shell’s announcement. “It sure would have helped grow, and given the opportunity for businesses to expand.”

When it announced its decision to halt the development, Shell officials made a point of saying it wasn’t only due to low world oil prices, but a lack of pipeline capacity in Alberta as well.

READ MORE: Shell scrapping Carmon Creek oilsands project, cites pipeline uncertainty

Peace River’s mayor believes that second piece is solvable. Tom Tarpey has written Prime Minister Trudeau a letter urging him to move forward on new pipelines.

“We hope that the Liberal government focuses in on Energy East.”

Tarpey envisioned a tremendous expansion in his community through both the construction and operation phases of Carmon Creek.

“In my wildest dreams I was hoping that we would double to 14,000, and we’d become a city.”

It is a growth scenario that is now unlikely, as residents and businesses now hope for an oil price rebound to turn the economy around.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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