Sunday, February 17, 2019

Start in Sturgeon Blog


Welcome to the Start in Sturgeon Blog. Check here often for great articles about the County's Economic Development and other relevant issues.

Heart ♥ healthy
Everyone's talking about the Nordic Diet - a diet with an emphasis on good, home-made and often home-grown, seasonal food - consisting of a wide variety of grains, berries, vegetables, fish, poultry and game (but very little meat). Health-wise, the diet has been proven in studies to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and lead to weight loss. 

New Nordic Diet calls for canola oil which is the main cooking oil in Scandinavia and contains seven percent saturated fat, even less saturated fat than olive oil, which contains 15 percent. It’s a great local alternative for those without access to olive oil. Canola is used as a key ingredient in many foods including the Nordic Diet. Its reputation as a healthy oil has created high demand in markets around the world, and overall, it is the third-most widely consumed vegetable oil. 

Canadian-grown canola contributes $19.3 billion to the Canadian economy each year, including more than 249,000 Canadian jobs and $12.5 billion in wages according to the Canola Council of Canada. The main canola products manufactured in Canada are oil for human consumption and meal for livestock feed. Canola oil can be further processed into a wide range of consumer and commercial food products.

I visited Bunge, a multinational company with a seed crushing facility in Sturgeon Industrial. Bunge is an agribusiness and food ingredient company that manufacturers edible oil products. From canola oilseeds, they produce shortenings and margarine, as well as salad and cooking oils for food processors and food service operators - you have likely enjoyed one of their products.

Bunge’s canola crushing plant in Sturgeon County produces crude canola oil and canola meal from harvested canola seeds. The company has been in the County for 35 years and currently employs 50 full-time people. Bunge sources its raw materials locally by working directly with local growers in Alberta .

Although I didn’t get an opportunity to tour Bunge’s processing facility, I learned a lot about the process used to turn canola seeds to oil. Essentially, canola oil is made at a processing facility first by removing waste material from the harvested seeds. The seeds are then pre-conditioned by slightly heating and turning them into flakes before they are pressed to extract the oil. The extracted crude oil is further refined using organic acids to give it good stability and shelf-life. The final step uses distillation to remove any unpleasant odour or taste. At this point, the canola oil is ready to be packaged and sold as cooking oil, or further processed into other products.

Every day, Bunge’s crushing facility in Sturgeon Industrial Park crushes about 850 metric tons of seeds, extracts 350 tons of crude oil and produces 500 tons of meal or pellets (a by-product created after the oil is removed from the seed flakes). The crude oil is transported to Wainwright, Alberta for further refining and then shipped back to Edmonton for packaging. Bunge sells fifty percent of its products on the Canadian domestic market and the remaining in the U.S. West Coast, China, Malaysia and Indonesia to name a few.

The Canola market has a great future ahead and processors are expected to gain tremendously from a healthy market outlook. In 2014, domestic processing totalled 7 million metric tons but that is expected to double by 2025. Trade agreements with South Korea and Europe in 2014 eliminated the tariff on canola and will improve market access for Canadian canola. Bunge is hoping to capitalize on this positive trend by expanding its seed crushing capacity. That could result in new employment opportunities in upcoming years.

For more about Bunge, visit:

Interesting Fact: Did you know that the name "canola" was chosen by the board of the Rapeseed Association of Canada in the 1970s? The "Can" part stands for Canada and "ola" refers to oil.

It’s all about good chemistry
I made a trip out to Guardian Chemicals, a privately owned Canadian company that researches, develops, and manufactures specialty chemicals in Sturgeon Industrial Park. I was impressed to find that environmental health and safety embody Guardian’s product development, from raw material selection to waste disposal. The company has been in existence for over fifty years with a current count of 53 employees at their 44,000 sq. feet facility. It really looks like a great place to work.

Chemical and materials manufacturing facilities play a major role in just about every facet of our lives but few people are aware of this industry’s role in keeping other sectors of our economy humming – think chemicals for newspaper printing presses, recycling water, cleaning boilers…the list goes on. Guardian Chemicals provides over 400 chemicals products for multiple applications and they have four divisions that cater to a wide range of sectors. One thing is common across these industries – they’re looking for products that are not only effective and reasonably priced, but environmentally safe as well - a tough juggling act from my point of view but a manageable challenge for their research and development team.

Pressguard and Roadtek are two products that are equipping industry to move toward safer, high performance products that are also environmentally friendly. Let’s starts with Pressguard and its uses in the wood panel manufacturing industry. I’m sure most of us have, at one time or another, bought furniture made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF). MDF is a product made from wood fibers that are glued under heat and pressure - a versatile product that replaces timber as a low-cost alternative.

The most common binder used in making these boards is formaldehyde, a chemical that is of concern to the wood panel industry because of the risk of cancer. The industry has imposed tighter controls on the use of formaldehyde and most mills in Europe and North America are switching to resins that are free of them.

Although these resins are safer to use, some cause excessive buildup on panel pressing machines, thereby slowing production. So the smart scientists at Guardian Chemicals have formulated a release agent called Pressguard that prevents this sticky resin buildup from occurring. In the picture above, the wood panel is sprayed with the release agent before the surface of the metal press comes into contact with the panel. Unlike other release agents on the market, Pressguard does not require any elaborate application process so it keeps the cost of board manufacturing low and our furniture affordable for us.

Another product that Guardian Chemicals invented has the potential of changing the road construction industry. If you’ve ever had unpleasant experiences with rough roads with washboard bumps and loose gravel, potholes, ruts or excessive dust, you’ll be pleased to learn about another product Guardian Chemicals is currently testing. Roadtek is an environmentally friendly and nontoxic product that is designed to stabilize and extend the life of roadways without major road base work. Twelve roads are currently being tested across Strathcona, Lamont and Sturgeon Counties, including some in St. Albert. You can test drive one of them in Sturgeon County at Lamoureux Drive at Highway 15 or Range Road 251, 1 mile south of Township Road 544. Roadtek has other uses including parking lots, mines, construction site, trails and embankments.

In the picture above, a computer-controlled spray boom on the back of a distributor truck is spraying a county road with Roadtek. Depending on the weather, the road is typically tack free (i.e. not sticky) within 4 to 6 hours. At that stage, the area may be reopened while the sealer coat continues to cure. It reaches full strength within 10 to 14 days.

Here's what a country road looks like after it’s sprayed. Looks like you'll have a few less trips to the carwash this fall! It’s remarkable to see a local company develop such innovate products that will ultimately have a positive impact on industry and the environment. If you’d like to learn more about Guardian Chemicals, check them out at or use this link to find them on Google Maps.

Guardian Chemicals
Phone: (780) 998-3771

The Nuts and Bolts that make up a Local Metal Fabricator

There is no doubt that the plunging oil prices have caused concerns among industries that are linked to the energy sector. Is it all doom and gloom as some would lead us to believe? My answer is an emphatic no. My perception from visiting firms linked to the energy sector indicates mixed impacts. Indeed, some companies have scaled back and put new plans for capital projects on hold while others are forging ahead and capitalizing on lower construction costs resulting from a more competitive labour market. Obviously, the metal fabrication sector will continue to thrive because existing industrial facilities will need to maintain and replace old machinery and parts.

I toured McSween Custom Fabricating's facility in Sturgeon Industrial Park a week ago and their mood spells optimism even in the midst of changes within the energy sector. McSween Custom Fabricating is an industrial fabrication and construction company that has been serving industrial plants in Alberta since 1980. The company was started as a family business by two brothers that were involved in the trades. It evolved through the years, expanding its client base after it was purchased by its current owner, Nelson Martin. McSweens expertise covers a broad range of industries, which include petrochemical, fertilizer, cement, mining, pharmaceutical and power generation. The company has two shops; a main shop with 28,000 square feet which is their custom fabrication shop with 15 employees. This shop is involved in fabricating vessels and custom forming, shearing and rolling. The second shop of 10 employees is a pipe products shop which is 12,000 square feet fabricates process pressure piping of any alloy.

McSween Fabricating also employs 18 people that are capable of providing project management services, engineering and design.  It also has a field maintenance division consisting of 70 people of various trades, pipe fitters, pressure welders, millwrights, boilermakers and iron workers that provide maintenance support to the industrial sector.

McSween has built a great reputation on high quality and flexibility when it comes to difficult projects. Inside one of the facilities, there were large pipes and vessels that were being worked on. I wondered how these giant, heavy pieces ever leave the shop. It turns out that the shops are equipped with multi five ton overhead cranes and the large overhead doors are designed for the finished pieces to exit the shop.

I also learned a couple of interesting facts about welding. When two pieces of metal are welded; scorching temperatures of around 5,500 degrees Celsius (9,900 degrees Fahrenheit are used). The sparks that result can be as hot as 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) so needless to say, I was sure to stand clear! The finished pipes and vessels also undergo testing for strength and leaks. The test involves filling the vessel or pipe system with a liquid, usually water, which may be dyed to spot leaks more easily. Vessels are pressurized to a specified test pressure at which point, instruments measure pressure loss. The strength of a vessel is usually tested by measuring the deformities of the container. These tests are conducted in front of clients to ensure that their project is compliant with all stated specifications and standards.


I enjoyed my visit with McSween Custom Fabricating and I have new admiration for engineers that design and build stable and durable structures that keep Alberta’s economy humming. You can also learn more on how engineered technologies sustain our economy by visiting the Western Manufacturing Technology Show. This event will be hosted in Edmonton from June 15-17, 2015. The show is geared towards the needs of manufacturers in Alberta and throughout Western Canada in industries ranging from oil and gas, industrial and commercial machinery, construction, mining, agriculture, wind energy and aerospace.

The show will provide access to state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, educational sessions and networking opportunities. It is designed to be a one-stop, all-encompassing venue for the latest technologies and trends in machine tools, tooling and accessories, metal fabrication, design, automation and assembly, advanced manufacturing, plant maintenance and process control, so if you’re interested, visit the Edmonton EXPO Centre at the Northlands, Halls F, G & H, 7515-118 Avenue, Edmonton. Get more information from the event website at:

McSween Custom Fabricating, Welding, Erecting Ltd may is located at:
159-55202 SH825
Sturgeon Industrial Park
Sturgeon County, AB  T8L 5C1
Phone: 780 998 0600

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