Nfld. & Labrador

Packed Placentia trade show symbolic of renewed confidence as oil project nears restart

Delegates stood shoulder to shoulder at the Star of the Sea Hall this week, sharing meals and ideas, and commenting on the positive vibes in the room, crammed with business exhibits.

Delegates and organizers feeling upbeat as industry spotlight shines on Placentia Bay region

The pending restart of construction on the stalled West White Rose oil project in Argentia was just one of many reasons delegates at this year's Placentia Bay Industrial Showcase were in such an upbeat mood. Roughly 1,500 trades workers will take part in a massive concrete pour next year that will see the structure rise to nearly 150 metres. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

A two-day showcase for businesses in Placentia Bay has concluded, and the mood at the Star of the Sea Hall in the Town of Placentia this week was symbolic of renewed confidence in one of Newfoundland and Labrador's most industrialized regions.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the hall was crammed with the maximum number of business exhibits, and with delegates standing shoulder to shoulder, sharing meals and ideas, and commenting on the positive vibes in the room.

"If this continues, I think we'll have outgrown our venue for next year," said Claudette Pittman, who chairs the organizing committee for the Placentia Bay Industrial Showcase.

It was the 25th anniversary of the event, and the pandemic blahs were replaced by optimism.

"The sky is the limit. We're very very excited," said Scott Penney, CEO of the nearby Port of Argentia.

Scott Penney is chief executive officer with the Port of Argentia, which hosts a wide range of industrial activity, from mining and shipping to aquaculture and oil and gas. The port is now expanding into green energy, with plans for a wind and hydrogen project and to be a marshalling yard for wind turbine components being delivered from Europe to the United States. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

"The vibe is very positive," added Trades N.L. executive director Darin King. The labour organization represents 16 building trades unions, with a membership of more than 15,000 workers.

There was also plenty of talk about the challenge of making the most of all the opportunities that are either in high gear or on the horizon.

"We all have to recognize the changing economy, our changing world, and of course the emphasis on renewables," said Pittman.

The trade show took place not far from the Port of Argentia, which has become a hub for mining, shipping, oil and gas, fishing and aquaculture activity.

But lately there's talk about green energy projects, with a plan by U.S.-based Pattern Energy to develop a massive wind and hydrogen project at the port.

Argentia is poised to become a storage yard for wind turbine components being transported from Europe to the United States.

"The national and international notoriety of the port, and what it can do with its own infrastructure, has really changed the dynamic in our region," said Penney.

Higher than the Great Pyramid of Giza

And then there's the West White Rose offshore oil project. The project was suspended 2½ years ago as the pandemic began upending the energy sector. The concrete gravity structure was 65 per cent complete at the time, and the oil companies were reviewing all options, including cancelling the project.

But Cenovus, which merged with Husky nearly two years ago, announced last spring that West White Rose would bloom again, with a massive concrete pour planned for the second quarter of 2023.

There are currently 175 workers at the site, but that number will grow to roughly 1,500 in the coming months.

"It's very good, and it's good for us and the province because we get our trades workers back to work," said King.

The platform is being built inside a specially constructed graving dock, and the large base — more than 120 metres wide — currently rises to a height of 46 metres. 

St. John's native and Cenovus employee Mike Rudofsky is senior manager of the West White Rose concrete gravity structure project, which is being constructed at the Port of Argentia. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

But the plan is to construct the centre shaft over two months next spring, increasing the overall height of the structure to nearly 150 metres, which is higher than Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza.

The CGS, as it's called, will be floated out to sea in 2025 and mated with a topside module, which is being built in Texas and is nearly 90 per cent complete. It will then be towed to the White Rose oil field, about 350 kilometres east of St. John's, and set down on the ocean floor, some 120 metres below the surface.

"A couple of months of hookup and commissioning, and then we'll start turning the bit. Hopefully we'll have first oil in 2026," said Mike Rudofsky, the project's senior manager.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, and is based in St. John’s. He previously worked for The Telegram, The Compass and The Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at:


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