Bull Arm opens its doors

Media gets inside look at Hebron project

Kevin Curley kevin.curley@thepacket.ca
Published on June 18, 2015
The gravity-based structure at Bull Arm is one of the world’s largest and is on schedule to be floated out to the Grand Banks in 2017.
Kevin Curley

Work carries on at the Hebron offshore oil platform.

The $14-billion project has made it an annual event to open its doors to media and The Packet was on site to see how things are progressing.

Geoff Parker senior project manager of the Hebron Project, said this time last year, the gravity-based structure (GBS) was just finishing up in the dry dock.

“We have since flooded the dry dock, floated the GBS out to the deep water site where we continued construction. Now the GBS is up to 70 metres in height and the next step is to pour the concrete roof on the oil storage roofs and after that we will build the shaft to take it to 120 metres in height,” Parker told The Packet.

From there, all the topsides will be integrated into one unit and it will be floated on top of the GBS.

The living quarters will soon be joined to the topsides components. The seven-story structure is being built inside of a fabrication area, a building with 42-metre-high doors, and the second largest in North America after NASA.

“We built it inside here so we can could continue to build throughout the winter. The living quarters will hold 220 people and everyone can live there during their offshore rotations,” Parker said.

“They have recreation rooms, dining rooms, and they have the facilities they need. I wouldn’t even say it’s a miniature hotel; it’s a seven-story hotel being built inside these walls.”

The dry dock where the GBS was built has been flooded after the GBS was taken to the deep-water site. The area is now used to support the construction site and is filled with cranes and cement storage and supply for the concreting work.

“It’s still part of the construction site but the main GBS is now at the deep water site,” Parker said.

At present, there are 600 people on the GBS and they are working on placing solid ballast material on the bottom of the GBS to make it even more stable while it’s floating.

At the peak time last year, there were 1,400 people per shift working on the GBS at any given time.

The GBS is now a total of 70 metres high, with 50 metres below the water. It will be 120 metres when it is completed and floated out to its final destination in 2017.

There has 55,000 cubic metres of concrete poured so far, which is more concrete than was poured in the Empire State Building. It is the second largest lift form operation in the world after the Gulfaks oil field constructed in the 1980s.

In 2017, the structure will be placed on the seabed 350 kilometres south east of St. John’s and it will be subject to wind, rain and ice.

“So it has be a very large structure to be able to resist all of those loads,” Parker said.

Parker said it will be exciting when the project is complete and able to begin extracting oil.

“For all the people who worked on the project, they all know they are working on something very special and I’m sure they will feel a lot of satisfaction when the project is completed and towed out to the Grand Banks,” he said.

The possibility of employment still exists at the site. During the peak time last summer, a total of 3,000 people from around the province were employed and thousands of them were from the province.

“We have people working here and they want to be part of the community so everybody enjoys the welcoming piece from all the local communities here. The employment fluctuates with each of the operations. There will be concreting work starting again in the fall of this year and we need various trades as we move along with the topside operation so I’m sure there will be many opportunities,” Parker said.

The project is on target for its first oil in 2017 and is being designed to produce 150,000 barrels of oil per day while holding roughly 1.2 million barrels of crude oil.

The Hebron project partners are ExxonMobil Canada Properties (36 per cent interest), Chevron Canada (26.7 per cent), Suncor Energy Inc. (22.7 per cent), Statoil Canada (9.7 per cent) and Nalcor Energy (4.9 per cent).

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Email: kevin.curley@thepacket.ca

Twitter: @kevincurleyjr