Our History

Written by Lee Nichols

Terracon, originally referred to as Canadian Geological Engineers Inc, (or ‘CGEI’), was established circa 1978-1980 by four founding members, including myself, Lee Nichols, P.Eng. & P. Geol., and Farrukh Khan, P.Eng. (retired). In creating CGEI we intended to focus our expertise on oil sand mining operations with a select number of Canadian petroleum companies. Our strategy was to take on smaller projects, but provide our professional earth science expertise, from start to finish on these client assignments. While establishing ourselves in the industry, we had creatively developed CGEI’s logo as a reflection of the earth centric stylized “Phi” or (Φ) symbol.

This symbol is commonly used in Geotechnical Engineering peer reviewed literature to represent the shear strength of construction materials including soil and rock; thus highlighting the Phi symbol with an image of the earth and a stylized dam structure, as shown to the right.

A few years later, in 1983, Farrukh and I reorganized our consulting group, and, with the addition of Emmett Horne, P.Geol. (retired), we re-established ourselves in the industry, settling on the name ‘Terracon Geotechnique Ltd’. Farrukh led the reorganized company, now known as 'Terracon', as President and CEO for a number of years prior to his retirement in the mid-nineties. This was a particularly important time in Terracon's growth with the competitive award of our first major oil sands contract in 1989.

There were two key components which lead us to this corporate name, the first of which is the word Terra which is latin for earth and con which is the abbreviated form of consultants – together meaning ‘Earth Consultants’. This root meaning reflects our intent in establishing the company, as we wanted to provide specialized services in designs and operations relating to earthworks. The second component in the naming was, ‘Geotechnique’, which was used in recognition of one of the first peer reviewed journals in Geotechnical Engineering. This journal, ‘Geotechnique’, is still published by the Institution of Civil Engineers in Great Britain.

Along with the company renaming, it was decided to rejuvenate our logo. Again, we retained the “Phi” or (Φ) symbol as the foundation of the logo. As shown to the left, the black vertical bar in the center of the logo represents a water well. The blue toned curved portions of the logo represent the drawdown curves of the ground water envelope surrounding the water well. Water wells are often required in earth construction projects for drainage, dewatering or depressurization purposes.

Over the years our Terracon team has ebbed and flowed along with the industry—starting from our initial small group working out of our office in the Nisku/Leduc area, to hovering around the 200 employee mark today - each of which continue to play a critical role towards success of the business. To this day, Terracon prides itself on being an employee owned, professional services firm, valuing our people, our greatest asset. We aim to empower every member of the Terracon team, encouraging employees to use their work experience, creativity and passion to take on new challenges. We believe that every employee has the ability to shape their environment, build their career, and grow our organization.

Now, over 40 years later, we are proud to have established ourselves in our industry and broadened our expertise to include full scope Geotechnical Engineering, Geological Consulting, Hydrogeology/Hydrology, Environmental Studies, and Mine & Tailings Engineering, Materials Testing, and Earth Construction QA/QC.
We have grown to serve both Canadian and International clientele (USA, Suriname, Iran, Zaire, Chile, Philippines) primarily in the oil, mining, pipeline, infrastructure, construction, and industrial sectors, from our operations within Fort McMurray, Nisku, and Calgary, AB, and Terrace, BC as well as deployed project teams at client sites across Western Canada.

We are fortunate to share a unique environment at Terracon, with a dedicated, highly skilled workforce that has a solid foundation built on team work and mutual respect. Each of us brings unique skills and has a measurable and essential contribution in achieving our common goals. We trust that each employee’s experience with Terracon continues to be enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding.


(Left to Right: Emmett Horne, Lee Nichols, Farrukh Khan. Circa Spring 2018 in Calgary, AB)

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