Nfld. & Labrador

Hebron success proof that N.L. workforce is world class, says union boss

A Newfoundland and Labrador union leader says the success of the Hebron construction project is more proof that the local workforce is world class, and he wants companies planning future projects to remember that.

Huge oil platform will be towed to the Grand Banks in May, with first oil planned for December

Jim Myers is the business manager of Local 740 of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Welders. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

A Newfoundland and Labrador union leader says the success of the Hebron construction project is more proof that the local workforce is world class, and he wants companies planning future projects in the province to remember that.

"It's because of the efforts of local Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that that happens and I think accolades should be flowing from all sides on that right now," said Jim Myers, business manager for Local 740 of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Welders.

End of employment bonanza

The hulking Hebron oil platform is nearing completion in Bull Arm, Trinity Bay, with plans to tow it to the Grand Banks in May, a spokesperson for the partners behind the project confirmed Tuesday.

Oil production is scheduled to begin in December, which has been the target all along.

The winding down of construction means the end of an employment bonanza for the construction industry, which has been riding a wave of activity that also included the massive nickel processing plant in Long Harbour.

The Hebron topsides were mated to the concrete gravity base late last year, with plans to tow the massive oil platform in May. (Hebron)

Both projects created thousands of well-paid construction jobs, but that wave has now settled into a deep trough.

Jim Myers said about two-thirds of his union's 1,500 members are now out of work, and they're anxious for the next major project to commence.

Many are pinning their hopes on the long-awaited West White Rose extension project, which could be sanctioned in the coming months.

Wellhead platform the preferred option

Husky Energy is the lead partner on the project, and said this week it is still evaluating its development options.

Those options include a concrete gravity structure known as a wellhead platform, which is similar in appearance to Hebron and Hibernia, or a subsea drilling centre that would be connected to the SeaRose FPSO.

The wellhead platform would be constructed at a specialized graving dock in Placentia, creating hundreds of construction jobs.

It's the preferred option of both the provincial government and people like Myers, and sources say it's the most likely outcome.

"The timing for Husky is excellent right now. Here we've got a project like Hebron coming to an end. It's going offshore to produce oil similar to Hibernia and be as successful as Hibernia as a project, and on the heels of that Husky is going to build theirs. So they have a work-ready force now to go in and do their project," said Myers.

Hebron safety record 'second to none' 

There's plenty of buzz in the industry that Husky is exploring every option to reduce construction costs, and like Hebron, some key components of the West White Rose projects are expected to be built outside of this province.

Myers understands that some of the work must be sourced elsewhere, but he believes more can be done in the province.

Myers said there's one more factor that companies like Husky need to consider — the record of safety at Hebron.

"It's phenomenal. Second to nowhere in the world. If I were Husky, man I'd want that mantra coming into my work also when I go to do the Argentia project," he said.

About the Author

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.