Darcy Cretin, on one of his last days working at the Weyburn Unit before retiring. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

In recent years, the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show has presented its Southeast Saskatchewan Legends Award. Pipeline Online is publishing their biographies here. The oil show is June 5-6, with the Legends awards being presented on June 5. Tickets to attend the awards ceremony and luncheon can be purchased here (if you are an exhibitor, please do not use that link.) More information can be found at oilshow.ca

Darcy Cretin came to Weyburn expecting a short stay. It ended up being the rest of his life. And along the way, he was instrumental in implementing carbon capture long before it was cool.

Cretin was born in Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, in 1964. His family bounced from there to Inuvik to Cape Breton, where they remained until he was 16, at which point the Cretins moved to Alberta.

His mother was from Cape Breton, and they farmed there. His father worked at a Gulf Oil refinery at Port Hawkesbury. When Darcy’s grandfather passed away, his father inherited a farm in Alberta, so they moved to Cluny, Alberta, east of Strathmore.

Cretin took petroleum engineering technology at SAIT in 1981, graduating in 1983. “The significance of that was this Prime Minister Trudeau “the first” had just introduce the National Energy Program. So when I graduated high school in ‘81, and enrolled in this program, it came with the promise of 10 jobs for every student. By the time I was done, there was no jobs for any students.”

So he went to work for a pig farmer as a hired hand. “PanCanadian happened to be building a new gas plant, right between my parents’ farm and this pig farm, I was driving by every day and didn’t know anything about the industry or PanCanadian. My dad happened to be an operator at a gas plant for a company in the area.”

“He said, ‘You should put your name in at PanCanadian. They’ll be hiring new operators.’ I was thinking it’s just down the road from the farm. And it worked, I got a job with PanCanadian, but it was in Strathmore.”

A production manager at the time decided to hire some operators with a bit more technical training, he said. “I was a bit of a guinea pig. I was one of the first SAIT grads they hired and put in the field as an operator.”

That program became more common after that.

  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

“After a year and a half, I transferred into Calgary, into the reservoir engineering department,” Cretin said.

He worked as a reservoir engineering tech, covering Grande Prairie, Strathmore and Drumheller. It was the area of Alberta that dated back to the earliest history of PanCanadian, going back to its Canadian Pacific Railway roots.

In 1984 he started dating Lianne Osika of Lipton, Saskatchewan, which, north of Fort Qu’Appelle, was not terribly far from Weyburn. It meant long drives east every weekend he could make it. Lianne came to Calgary to take a teaching degree, and they were married in 1986.

“I bought a house in Calgary when oil hit $10 a barrel. And in hindsight, it was a great deal. I didn’t know why real estate was so cheap. I didn’t think it was cheap at the time, but when you read about it now, it was a pretty depressed industry all through the 80s.”

 

He spent five years in Calgary. “There was a picture circulating around for my 40th anniversary, a guy sitting at a desk with a bunch of paper. There were no computers. You had secretaries that typed everything up. You wrote a memo longhand, got it typed up with carbon paper and carbon copies.”

After five years in Calgary they decided the big city life wasn’t for them, and Cretin went back to operating at Strathmore. This time he had the opportunity to develop a waterflood in the Strathmore field, working with the company’s geologists. “We developed it, and I went out to the field and operated it.’

He got to put into practice what he had been planning.

  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

The kids showed up from 1990 to 1993. Charlene was born in Calgary in 1990 and Andrew was born in 1992 followed by Colleen in 1993, both in Weyburn.

In 1992 PanCanadian embarked on a “continuous improvement program,” similar to Japanese manufacturing processes. It was all about employee involvement and engagement.

“PanCanadian had hired a consulting firm to introduce it. And after a year, the consultants were replaced with employees. So I applied, and I was a continuous improvement coach in Weyburn, from 1992 to 94. So I came here as an ‘experienced’ 28 year old coach. And really, the bulk of the job was a leadership coach, as you’re coaching supervisors on how to engage their staff and involve their staff, and how to improve the business and helping the teams the work teams, build business cases for their ideas.”

He added, “While I was here to coach the supervisors on how to improve the business and engage their teams, I probably gained as much supervisory training as they did for me.”

“That whole continuous improvement gig turned into a bit of a leadership development program, because four out of the five coaches, all became superintendents within PanCanadian.”

What was essentially management training for two full years led to his promotion to production foreman at Brooks.

At the time, PanCanadian was in the mode of moving around their field staff a lot. There was an expectation of another transfer after Brooks.

“After three years in Brooks, the CO2 project got approved, and then I got the call from one of our managers who offered me the superintendent’s position in Weyburn.”

Cretin was specifically recruited for the job.

  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

He didn’t have any experience with CO2 at the time, but then again, but he noted, “Nobody did. I had reservoir engineering experience, which is a big part of managing an enhanced oil recovery project. So I’d say my knowledge of reservoir engineering and geology is helpful. That doesn’t help us run a compressor, pump jacks, but just in terms of understanding what, what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s helpful.”

Some of the older infrastructure at the Weyburn Unit, still in use today. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

By this point, they Weyburn Unit had been in operation for more than 30 years, with ageing equipment. To implement the carbon dioxide flood meant substantial refurbishment of the existing infrastructure as well as expansion. At the time, the expectation was a billion dollars would be spent over the lifetime cost of the project. The initial investment was $150 million from 1997 to 2000 to get the first phase up and running. Another $600 million was slated to buy the CO2, sourced at Dakota Gasification’s Great Plains Synfuels plant at Beulah, North Dakota.

In 1998-99, they had to develop the patterns and convert wells for CO2 injection. The first CO2 arrived in 2000. Additional plant infrastructure, such as a free water knockout and two compressors, were added. The rollout of CO2 started on the western side of the unit and moved to the east. All new CO2 patterns are done with horizontal wells.

“Wellheads had to be upgraded for higher pressure. Any old steel pipelines were replaced with fiberglass. In the rollout we basically put all new pipe in the ground, upgraded wellheads, both producers and injectors,” he said. CO2 lines had to be added, allowing for an alternating flood between water and gas.

At the 2001 Oil Show, Darcy shared the Saskatchewan Oil Person of the Year Award for implementation of the CO2 miscible flood.

A new office facility was built onsite in 2000, and in 2008 a new office was built with something rather unique a sign outside that said “Visitors” and the capacity to host tours. And boy, were there tours. The world came out to see this new carbon dioxide project.

“We stopped counting at 300. We probably had around 400 tours,” Cretin said. “Stephen Harper toured the field around 2007. I think the prime minister coming was the impetus to build what I call a more professional office setting with conference rooms we have today.”

  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

Along the way, the Petroleum Technology Research Centre provided the scientific monitoring of the project. It got a lot of attention in part because it was accessible, as opposed to the Sahara desert or northern Russia. An hours drive from Regina’s international airport, scientists could easily come to visit the Weyburn Unit and its CO2 flood. The PTRC literally wrote the book on geologic storage of CO2 based on the work done at the Weyburn Unit.

PTRC seismic survey done in 2014. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

There wasn’t an expectation of all that attention, at least at first. “It just evolved. It took on a life of its own,” Cretin said. “The whole topic of greenhouse gases was just coming to the forefront. So I don’t think we maybe necessarily had an understanding of the significance right at that time.”

Indeed, they hired someone full-time to look after tours over the course of 10 years. Around 2007 they ended up on featured on the Discovery Channel. Premier Brad Wall brought around American senators and ambassadors.

Cretin said, “Back in the 90s, industry had a bit of a program where it was is quite in vogue to rotate superintendents around. So every two or three years, we were moving superintendents between field offices, we were rotating production engineers through superintendents to get field experience. So when I was appointed to this position in 97, I asked my boss, ‘So how long do you think I’ll be here?’ Because this was our fourth move in seven years, with three little kids. And his answer was, ‘Well, three, maybe five years or until we get this CO2 thing figured out.’

“So that’s always my tagline: Now is 27 years later, we’re still trying to figure this CO2 thing out.”

The central battery for the Weyburn Unit. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

He had no expectation of staying that long at first, but they enjoyed coming back to Weyburn after their first stint, and it became their permanent home.

In 2014 the Weyburn Operation received the Worksafe Saskatchewan Safe Employer of the Year Award. The Weyburn team have not experienced a lost time incident in over 30 years.

  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

PanCanadian became EnCana in 2002, and Encana became Cenovus in 2009. In 2017, Whitecap Resources bought the ownership stake, the first real transition since the Unit was founded, as all previous companies were successors of fundamentally the same company.

In 2017, Whitecap Resources bought the operating share of the Weyburn Unit, and continued its expansion, including recently into the Frobisher formation.

In January 2023 Cretin received the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for contributions to Saskatchewan’s energy sector.

With the hard work of a great team, from the very beginning of the CO2 project until his retirement in March, 2024, Darcy has been the superintendent that made it happen.

Darcy Cretin, a regular participant in the Weyburn Oilmen’s Bonspiel

 

In the early years Cretin’s volunteer time revolved around kid’s activities of minor hockey, gymnastics and figure skating but also included community organizations like the Weyburn Chamber of Commerce, the 2004 Summer Games, The Family Place and Weyburn Regional Economic Development Board. Industry related volunteer activities have included being an inaugural member of the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee when Energy Safety Canada set up shop in Saskatchewan, member of the OHS Council for Saskatchewan Labour Relations and Workplace Safety and board member of the Weyburn Oil Show Board since 1997.

Darcy and Lianne’s three children all call Saskatchewan home. Charlene and her husband Dallas live in Weyburn, Andrew and his wife Taylor and son Henri live in Regina and Colleen and her partner Ryan also live in Regina.

 

  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

2024 Southeast Saskatchewan Legends: Paul Cheung

2024 Southeast Saskatchewan Legends: James Baker

2024 Southeast Saskatchewan Legends: Jim Larter

2024 Southeast Saskatchewan Legends: Dean Lemieux

2024 Southeast Saskatchewan Legends: Dean Gilliss