For Allan Nelson, 95 is just another year

Allan Nelson just celebrated his 95th birthday. 

And, as in most offices, the staff took a few moments out of the day for birthday cake and then it was back to work.

Nelson still works at his family's Edmonton-based engineering firm Allan R. Nelson Consulting Engineers, which specializes in oil and gas drilling. And he has no plans to retire.

"There's so many fascinating things out there that need to be done and so many interesting things I find I enjoy coming into work."

He'll tell you that while he may have the body of a 95 year old, his mind is a sharp as when he was 30.

He still loves the challenge of staying abreast of the technological changes in the oil and gas industry.

"The only reason I stay in the business is there's so many wonderful things going on," he said.

"The changes that I see in the drilling and service rig industry in general have been very drastic — a great many changes. These changes are happening much more rapidly now than they did in the beginning."

A historic career

Nelson's career has followed the arc of the oil and gas industry in Alberta.

He grew up in the Turner Valley where he developed a love of machinery and became fascinated with the drilling industry.

His engineering career began in 1951, a few years after Leduc No. 1 struck a rich deposit of oil near Devon.

In 1966, he started his own firm in Edmonton.

"It's been a very fascinating career," he said. "I've been to every place in Western Canada and the North where they've drilled for oil and gas at somebody else's expense, but in most cases at 40 below and four in the morning."

He works four hours a day, five days a week.

"I'm working on several automation projects on different pieces of equipment to take another person off the rig floor and enable [the job] to be done mechanically," he said.

"I do manage to get in almost every day. And I do think I contribute a certain amount here."

As for retirement? "If I was to quit now, everything would stop and I probably wouldn't last more than a year or two."

And his birthday wish? It's what everybody in the industry is hoping for — a turnaround.

"It's a difficult time right now; a significant lack of business."