Bull Arm suitors narrowed to 2 companies as Nalcor tries to negotiate lease

Nalcor says it could award a lease for the Bull Arm fabrication site in Trinity Bay by the end of March, with two companies competing for the site.

DFB Driver and Canadian Supply Base Company competing for right to operate dormant fabrication facility

Nalcor is negotiating with two companies for a lease of the idle Bull Arm fabrication site in Trinity Bay. (Nalcor Energy)

Nalcor says it could award a lease for the Bull Arm fabrication site in Trinity Bay in a matter of days, with two companies competing for a facility that has played a pivotal role in Newfoundland and Labrador's oil industry.

Four companies submitted bids, but Nalcor has narrowed it to two prospective operators: DFB Driver and Canadian Supply Base Company (CSBC).

"Our goal has been to have the negotiations concluded by the end of March, but that could obviously change depending how things evolve," Nalcor wrote in a statement to CBC News.

Bull Arm a centrepiece of future growth?

Bull Arm is now dormant following years of construction activity and billions in spending as the Hebron oil platform took shape and was towed to the Jeanne d'Arc Basin in June 2017.

This image provides an overhead layout of the Bull Arm fabrication site in Trinity Bay. (Nalcor Energy)

The lease by ExxonMobil has expired, with the company paying $26 million to Nalcor in 2017, but that revenue has now stopped flowing, and the energy corporation is looking to start a new chapter at Bull Arm.

Despite the fact there are no Hebron-like major projects in the offing, both DFB Driver and CSBC are pitching to use Bull Arm as a centrepiece of continued growth in the industrial sector as the province aims to double oil production by 2030.

"We are working on some very exciting new business opportunities that will see the company expand," a DFB Driver spokesman wrote in a statement to CBC News.

We are working on some very exciting new business opportunities that will see the company expand.- Spokesman, DFB Driver

DFB Driver is a joint venture between St. John's-based DF Barnes and J.V. Driver Group of Edmonton, Alta.

The company did not provide specific details on its plans for Bull Arm, but a spokesman said DFB Driver "looks forward to bringing new opportunities to Bull Arm that will spur economic growth for the surrounding communities and all of Newfoundland and Labrador."

The spokesman said "aside from the significant amount of business DFB Driver currently has on its books, we have new business plans in both domestic and international markets."

Bull Arm envisioned as a 'Port cluster'

CSBC, meanwhile, was established in late 2017 by Norway's Norsea Group and Integrated Logistics, a St. John's company.

It's proposing to develop Bull Arm into a multi-user "port cluster," incorporating supply base services with subsea services and fabrication, and an industrial estate for supply and service companies.

The company describes it approach as a "life-of-field service centre," with services such as quayside operations, warehousing, laydown areas, bulk and marine gas oil facilities.

Norsea operates similar facilities in Norway and the Gulf of Mexico, and said a "mature" port cluster like the one proposed for Bull Arm can host over 50 companies and employ more than 2,500 people.

"We'll provide the platform to support a community of co-located companies that together increase the capacity and capability of the region," said CSBC chairman Denis Dupois.

"We're proud of the support and interest our port cluster concept has received from local, regional and international companies. We're looking forward to hearing from others as we continue our journey."

The topsides for the Hebron project are pictured here at Bull Arm in December 2016. (Submitted by Frankie Donahue)

Norsea describes itself as a global leader in offshore supply base development and operations, while Integrated Logistics specializes in logistics and terminal operations.

The sprawling 6,300-acre Bull Arm site is described by Nalcor as Atlantic Canada's largest industrial fabrication site.

The first project at Bull Arm was Hibernia, which marked its 20th year of oil production in 2017.