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Discovery Air celebrates launch of corporate service

Nov. 7, 2013, Calgary - A new corporate shuttle service will fly energy executives from Calgary to the Northwest Territories town that some believe could be the centre of North America’s next shale oil boom.


November 7, 2013
By The Calgary Herald

On Wednesday, Calgary-based Discovery Air International celebrated
the upcoming launch of its new, scheduled service between Calgary and
Norman Wells, NWT — a small community nearly 700 km northwest of
Yellowknife. Using a Bombardier Challenger 601 jet equipped with a
12-passenger executive interior, the service will run three times a week
starting Nov. 13.

 

“The corporate shuttle model is something we’ve
looked at for a while, and there are other markets that are on our
radar. Norman Wells was the first one, though, just based on customer
feedback and demand,” said Discovery Air International president Trevor
Wever. “More and more, customers in the oil and gas sector are looking
for a more expeditious way of getting from Calgary to Norman Wells
versus the current options on the main line carriers.”

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Earlier
this year, a major discovery of oil in shale deposits was made near
Norman Wells. No-one knows exactly how much oil is there, but the NWT
government estimates between two and three billion barrels is
recoverable. If so, the Canol shale, as it is called, would rival the
size of the Bakken formation which underlies parts of North Dakota,
Montana, and Saskatchewan.

 

There are five companies that have now
snapped up acreage in the region — Husky Energy Inc., Shell, ExxonMobil
Corp., Imperial Oil Ltd., ConocoPhillips Canada, and Calgary-based MGM
Energy Corp. For employees of these companies, flying to Norman Wells on
main line commercial airlines means a 6 a.m. flight out of Calgary,
followed by connections in Edmonton and Yellowknife. The total travel
time is about 7.5 hours, as opposed to the 2.5 hour direct flight
Discovery Air International will offer.

 

ConocoPhillips Canada —
which has ongoing drilling activities aimed at assessing the potential
of the Canol play and recently became the first company granted National
Energy Board permission to employ horizontal fracturing in the North —
has typically used charter flights, not the commercial airlines, to get
to Norman Wells.

 

“With no direct flights, the day of travel was
very long for our employees,” said Alex Kocen, logistics co-ordinator
for aviation with ConocoPhillips Canada. “A key factor in this decision
was also doing what was right for the communities in the North. We did
not want to create a problem for the communities by taking up seats on
the commercial flights.”

 

John Hogg, vice-president of exploration
and operations for MGM Energy, said he flies the main line commercial
Northern services regularly. But he acknowledged a direct flight to
Norman Wells would make sense for the Calgary market — especially in the
winter when weather delays could mean a missed connection in Edmonton
or Yellowknife.

 

“It’s nice to have the option,” Hogg said. “And
there’s enough industry work with the five companies up there now that I
think they (Discovery Air International) will probably do OK.”