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Neil Camarta


Neil Camarta’s relentless optimism and drive for success exemplify the passion oilsands leaders


As a bitumen partial upgrading pioneer, Neil Camarta has come a long way from his start engineering Shell’s Jumping Pound and Waterton gas plants. But most people will connect his name with Shell’s Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) amidst the wave of oilsands megaprojects in the early 2000s.

In light of the challenges that he faced and overcame, Neil often jokes of having been a “negative poster boy” for the oilsands. But none of that detracted from the respect he earned among colleagues, employees, stakeholder communities and investors.

Born in 1953 in Edson, Alta., and growing up in northern Alberta, Neil’s parents wanted their son to become a welder, but he ultimately made good on his aptitude for math and science to be the first in his family to go to university.

Neil studied chemical engineering at the University of Alberta. Field trips to Fort McMurray spurred his fascination with the oilsands. In 1975 he joined Shell Canada, where he was employed for the next 30 years. During this time he led development of the milestone AOSP.

Neil played an important role in the Suncor/Petro-Canada merger in 2009/10, helping to join the companies. He stepped down from Suncor, kept busy as an industry advisor and eventually co-founded Field Upgrading, a technology venture aimed at commercializing a simple and clean upgrading process for converting heavy oil into low-sulphur marine fuel.

Since 2017, Neil’s focus has shifted to a different kind of challenge. He left the management team of Field Upgrading to help find a cure for a rare form of muscular dystrophy called FSHD, which he has suffered from for years. While a cure won’t help him personally, Neil says it would be a gift to future generations, including his family.


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