Competition is keen among Nova Scotia companies vying for contracts to build the onshore supply base and the offshore living accommodations for the Deep Panuke natural gas field, senior officials with the company hired to build the platform said Tuesday.

Single Buoy Moorings, or SBM, with headquarters in Monaco, is building the $350-million platform for EnCana Corporation, operator of the Deep Panuke project on the Scotian Shelf about 250 kilometres southeast of Halifax.

Joe Lovett, SBM's North American manager, said Tuesday that his company will award a contract worth more than $20 million to build the hotel portion of the platform to Atlantic Fabricators Ltd. of Dartmouth or Irving Shipbuilding Inc. in Halifax.

Cherubini Metal Works has teamed up with Black & MacDonald to form Atlantic Fabricators to compete against Irving. The accommodations portion of the platform will be five storeys high and will house up to 100 people. It will take nearly two years to build.

Remi Bouffard, buyer for the offshore platform with SBM, said he will be talking with the two contenders this week "and ask them to revise their offer, to give us something more detailed."

Lovett, a native of Glace Bay now living in Houston, Texas, said most of the 60 offshore jobs will be filled by Nova Scotians coming home.

"The 60 people that we will have as employees here … we expect that a very high percentage of them will be Nova Scotians. We have a lot of CVs and resumes from people who currently work out west, in London, in Jakarta, who want to come home to Nova Scotia."

His company is trying to decide whether its onshore supply base will be with ExxonMobil in Halifax or in Mulgrave, at the Strait of Canso.

Deep Panuke project manager Malcolm Weatherston of EnCana Corporation said Mulgrave is in the running because it's closer to the site.

"The transit time to Halifax is marginally longer than to Mulgrave — two to three hours each way, each transit, over thousands of transits actually makes a difference," he said.

Mulgrave was a supply base for drilling 30 years ago.

Deep Panuke is worth $700 million and it will take 400 full-time workers to operate the project.

It is expected to start production in 2010 and to deliver between 200 million and 300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to markets in Canada and the northeast United States.