The Sir Julian C. Smith Medal (2004)

Dr. Edward C, McRoberts

- A Member of the Canadian Geotechnical Society and a Fellow of the EIC

Dr. McRoberts obtained his Bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of Alberta following with graduate studies at Imperial college in London he was granted a DIC and Masters in Soil Mechanics. He then returned to the University of Alberta where he completed a PhD in Soil Mechanics. During his graduate studies he was an Assistant Professor at Royal Military College, then upon graduation he joined RM Hardy & Associates which is now part of AMEC, where he is the Chief Technical Officer and Senior Vice-President.

Dr. McRoberts’ career has, in a sense, been dedicated to the premise on which candidates for the Julian C. Smith Medals are judged - - that is “achievement in the development of Canada”. There are two areas of frontier development that mark Dr. McRoberts’ work. One is involvement in northern and artic pipelines, and the other is the Alberta oil sands. Both of these are areas, which are almost synonymous to the development of Canada that is the development of frontier resources.

His early contributions to artic and other pipeline engineering remain testaments to his bold and creative engineering skills. These are particularly evidenced in studies for the Canadian Artic Gas, including foundations and slope stability in permafrost, soil-structure interaction for buried pipelines, thaw settlement and frost heave. For the Norman Wells oil pipeline, which crosses from Norman Wells to Zama, Alberta, he was engaged in the design and construction. This included thaw settlement, slope stability and rehabilitation, and all the other aspects one can conceive of for construction in this challenging area. He remains the senior reviewer for the ongoing performance of this landmark project. These accomplishments, and great number of other northern projects can be gleaned from Dr. McRoberts’ writings. Unusually for a practicing engineer, he took the time to record his work in some 50 papers, which are found in Canadian and worldwide journals.

These papers also include the history of what will represent the strongest legacy of Dr. McRoberts, his work in the Alberta oil sands. There are no significant geotechnical structures in the oil sands, from excavations to world-ranking tailings dams and vast waste dumps that have not benefited from his profound knowledge and innovative thinking. The returns to Canada have been enormous, not only in energy itself, but also in the creation of an industry that provides the basis for the lives of a great number of Canadians - - an industry that will continue to enhance the lives of future generations.

The oil sands projects are primarily huge open pit mines. His work includes investigations and determining the properties of overburden and the underlying oil sands, planning and mass balance, design and construction of huge retention tailings dams, waste dumps and the safe passage and working of enormous draglines and bucket wheel excavators. He has worked for virtually all of the major oil sands developers, Suncor, Syncrude, Shell, Mobil, CNRL as well as others.

Dr. McRoberts has been personally responsible for the design of over 15 major dykes in the oil sands, most in excess of 80 m in height, and the Tar Island dyke for Suncor which is 100 m high. These are the largest structures of the type in North America. As you might expect he is now sought after as a Senior Consultant or as a member of Consulting Boards for a variety of clients.

Dr. McRoberts is currently a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada, and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering. Tonight the EIC honours him as the recipient of the prestigious Julian C. Smith Medal.

Mr. President - - Dr. Edward C. McRoberts


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