Nfld. & Labrador

Hebron construction delays could postpone date of first oil

Sources say delays in the construction of topside modules for the Hebron megaproject could delay when the platform will launch production in Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore industry.

Union official says workforce reductions related to delays in Korea

Plumbers and pipefitters union rep Jim Myers says there's disappointment following layoffs due to topside module delays 4:15

Sources say delays in the construction of topside modules for the Hebron megaproject could delay when the platform will launch production in Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil industry. 

These delays, say union officials, are also responsible for recent workforce reductions at the site.

The schedule originally called for the gravity-based structure, which is under construction in Bull Arm in Newfoundland's Trinity Bay, to be mated with its topside modules a year from now.

However, that is now delayed until the summer of 2016, CBC News has learned, because work on components being built in South Korea by Hyundai Heavy Industries has fallen behind schedule.

First oil is currently scheduled to be produced before the end of 2017.

The pace of construction in Newfoundland and Labrador has been moving at a brisk pace in recent months, with employment peaking in Bull Arm at 5,305 workers in September.

That's according to a quarterly benefits report for the period from July 1 to Sept. 30.

This year also marked an important milestone for the project when the structure was towed from the drydock to its deepwater construction site in Bull Arm on July 22.

30 per cent reduction in workforce

But the head of a union local that provides workers to the massive project says there is now disappointment and uncertainty following a recent reduction in the workforce. 

Jim Myers, the business manager for Local 740 of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, said that up to about two weeks ago, the union had 90 members at the site. Work has been progressing on a gravity-based structure that will eventually be used to pump and store oil in the Jeanne d'Arc Basin, some 350 kilometres southeast of St. John's.

Myers said he was told there were no plans for local layoffs.
The Hebron gravity based structure (GBS) is towed to the deepwater construction site at Bull Arm in this July file photo. (Courtesy ExxonMobil Canada)

A few days later, he said, the main contractor — Kiewit-Kvaerner Contractors, better known as KKC — laid off 30 workers with Local 740.

Myers has also heard that other unions experienced similar reductions, though CBC's efforts to confirm this were unsuccessful Thursday. 

Myers said the modules from South Korea were originally scheduled to arrive early next year, but he is now hearing it will happen at some point in 2016.

"That's the information we got most recently," said Myers.

Sources also say office staff at the construction site was recently slashed by 40 per cent.

A spokesperson with ExxonMobil Canada said that recent employment changes at Bull Arm were a result of the completion of their large GBS slip operation which took place in the fall.

They also say that slip forming will resume in the 2015 summer season. The spokesperson maintains that first oil will be in 2017.