Fort McMurray: A Not so Small Town in Northern Alberta
In northern Alberta, about 435 kilometers northeast of Edmonton and 60 kilometers west of Saskatchewan, lies Fort McMurray. Once considered a city, Fort McMurray is now considered an urban service area and a component of Wood Buffalo, Alberta. However, media, politicians and locals still generally refer to Fort McMurray as a city of its own.
To most Canadians, Fort McMurray is famous for its association with the oil sands industry. Fort McMurray is truly at the economic core of Canada, as it is the located at one of the major Canadian oil production regions. As a result of the major oil production in the area, employment and labour force demands have grown drastically. The growth has not only opened job opportunities in the Canadian oil industry, but also in subsidiary and related industries. Fort McMurray has experienced an increase in residents in the area, which increased small and medium business success. Fort Mac has had a flurry of activity in recent years and it seems that this will be a long term trend!
The Oil Industry in Fort McMurray
Fort McMurray has been a fundamental part of the growing oil industry in Canada since the early 1900s. In the early days, Fort McMurray’s population was no greater than a few hundred and as a result oil exploration and production did not pick up until a few decades later.
As interest grew in the oil sands, Alcan Oil Company took the lead in oil production in the area when they began testing different processes to extract oil from the sands. Despite Alcan Oil Company’s initiative, Abasands Oil was the first to have success in oil extraction. Their hot water extraction methods made headway in the 1930s, but production volumes were still quite limited.
Significant developments were not made until the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Great Canadian Oil Sands, now known as Suncor, opened an oil production facility in the late 1960s and many more followed in the 1970s. The rapid growth was partially due to rising oil prices caused by conflicts in the Middle East. Population growth followed the increase in oil production, as Fort McMurray grew from around 2,000 inhabitants in 1970 to almost 7,000 a year later. By the early 1980s, Fort McMurray had over 30,000 people. Growth stagnated as the profitability of oil extraction from oil sands decreased for a few decades. In the early 2000s, the oil sands extraction process became viable again and growth has continued to increase since. Today, Fort McMurray is bustling with over 60,000 people. The population of Fort McMurray is expected to grow to over 130,000 by 2028.
Living in Fort McMurray
The Fort McMurray economy is largely driven by oil production, natural gas, oil transportation, forestry and tourism. Fort McMurray’s proximity to the Athabasca oil sands, the largest deposit of crude bitumen in the world and home to the largest three oil sands deposits in Alberta, makes employment easy to find. Most jobs in Fort McMurray are very high paying compared to the rest of Canada. However, the limited supply of housing and rental properties have increased the cost of living in the area.
Being a northern Alberta town, the winters in Fort McMurray are long and very cold, reaching temperatures south of -30 degrees Celsius. Summers are warm, but do not last very long.
Fort McMurray Neighbourhoods
- Abasand Heights
- Beacon Hill
- Lower Townsite
- Thickwood Heights
Find out where to live in Fort McMurray.
Fort McMurray Employers
Given Fort McMurray is primarily driven by oil production and transportation, some of the major employers include:
Employment in other industries has also grown as a result of the population influx, making jobs easy to come by.