By Jess Sinclair
Founded in 1984, Pimee Well Servicing LP has endured the volatility of the oil and gas market in Alberta and emerged as a company with a strong commitment to community and the preservation of the land. The company’s partners, Beaver Lake First Nation, Frog Lake First Nation, Heart Lake First Nation, Kehewin Cree Nation, Saddle Lake First Nation and Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake Band #128, share these commitments. Operating mostly in the northeastern part of the province, Pimee focuses on providing excellent service and creating opportunities for the area’s Aboriginal communities.
“Pimee is not only First Nations owned, but 99% of our employees are Indigenous and members of local communities,” says Pimee CEO Clayton Byrt. “As such, our employees have a greater sense of ownership and pride. They see a future with an employer who has their well-being in mind. We focus [extensively] on the development of our employees.”
The area’s First Nations had initially been interested in pursuing business in the drilling rig industry, but decided in the mid-’80s that the service rig industry was better for their communities in the long run. Such is their commitment to sustainable growth. “Back in the day, it was decided that the service business as opposed to the drilling business would provide a more stable work environment for locals to stay close to home,” Byrt explains. The company has largely done business in its own backyard, mostly focusing on the heavy oilsands resources in the Cold Lake area.
The approach has paid off, as Pimee has seen steady growth since the company purchased its first rig with the help of Imperial Oil in 1984. Another followed in 1987 and by 1990 the firm was able to diversify its service offerings. Today its services include its service rig division, general oilfield and downhole maintenance, and rod rig, fluid shot and TMX divisions. The company operates eleven service rigs, two rod rigs, a trailer-mounted x-celarator and its own transportation equipment. Pimee has also formed joint ventures with major producers, among them Imperial Oil, Husky, Canadian Natural Resources LTD and Cenovus Energy.
This success has allowed the firm to cultivate an impressive roster of Indigenous talent among the communities of the six nations that sit on its board. Even those not directly employed by the company have been touched by its commitment to excellence and hard work, namely the young people in the area who see the opportunities that the oil and gas industry as a whole can offer.
Conservation is also important to the Pimee team, particularly in light of its First Nations roots. The company stresses reverence for the environment in its guiding principles, one of which is to treat the Earth and its inhabitants with the utmost respect. Byrt puts it another way, noting that the organization always attempts to balance environmental conservation and responsible development of the province’s oil and gas resources. “We recognize the need to develop our resources responsibly with consideration of future generations,” he says.
Building partnerships with Indigenous communities will only become more important for our industry as more and more bands embrace the model created by Pimee and other First Nations communities wanting to maximize the benefit of the resources in their areas. Young Aboriginals in Alberta have excelled in the trades for generations, from forestry to pipeline maintenance, to oil and gas extraction; and educational opportunities are increasing. Both the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and its Southern counterpart now have mobile trades training units exclusively dedicated to First Nations. Keyano College has partnered with the Fort McKay First Nation near Fort McMurray to create apprenticeship opportunities within the already successful Fort McKay Group of companies. Finally, CAODC member company Ensign Energy Services has donated a service rig to the Northern Light’s School Division’s Trades Exposure Centre to bring hands-on trade education to students in the province’s North.
Because of their traditions and commitment to the land, Aboriginal businesses are deeply rooted in community and building long-term relationships with their business partners. “Engagement with First Nations Communities needs to be done in person, with respect and understanding of culture, hardship and past deceits. Personal relationships need to be developed and maintained over long periods of time,” says Byrt. “Partnerships with First Nations must be seen to provide benefit to the community as a whole, provide employment, education and opportunity and must be a true working relationship.”
Pimee Well Servicing exemplifies these values to the letter, and this has been the formula for the company’s lasting success over several decades.
The company sees great value in its membership in the CAODC. A long-time member of the Association, Pimee makes extensive use of the CAODC’s recommended practises, educational opportunities, committee work, and other training opportunities. Byrt says that the company and its employees “benefit from government and industry advocacy by the CAODC and it is a hub of industry and regulatory news and a place of comradery with our peers.”