Maintenance on the Trans Mountain pipeline, which has run from Alberta to B.C. and Washington since 1954. Construction has begun on the twinning project and expansion of the Burnaby export terminal. (Trans Mountain)

Pipeline contractors hiring in tight labour market for Alberta, B.C.

Competition for oil, gas pipeline jobs as skilled workers retiring

While mechanics, welders and specialty equipment operators are in demand for the twinning of the 66-year-old Trans Mountain oil and fuel pipeline, engineering and management expertise is also being sought as the project gears up in B.C. and Alberta.

Coastal Gaslink’s gas pipeline is part of the largest private sector investment in Canadian history, the $40 billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export project bankrolled by a Shell-led consortium to get B.C. gas to Asia. And it begins 2020 in a fierce competition for skilled trades and key management positions with Trans Mountain, the oil pipeline twinning that is ramping up construction at the same time.

Surerus Murphy, main contractor for the B.C. Interior portion of the Trans Mountain pipeline twinning, is also a major contractor on the Coastal Gaslink pipeline project that is setting up camps and clearing sites from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, where LNG Canada’s natural gas export facility is underway.

RELATED: Coastal Gaslink crews stopped by trees felled on road

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Surerus Murphy currently has openings for a senior project engineer, subcontracts specialist, quantity surveyor and junior pipeline engineer for the Coastal Gaslink project, as well as taking applications for a variety of jobs on the Trans Mountain line.

Trans Mountain’s job page invites applications for a wide variety of jobs, from administration and camp support to engineers, environmental compliance and safety, trades such as welding, pipefitting, carpentry and steel construction, plus truck drivers, mechanics, equipment operators and bus drivers to get thousands of workers from camps to job sites in Alberta and across B.C.

Contractors for Trans Mountain include SA Energy Group, a partnership with Aecon Group, which also just landed the contract to replace the Pattullo Bridge in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

B.C. Premier John Horgan notes that big public projects like the Pattullo and Broadway subway line in Vancouver are after the same pool of experienced workers, especially in senior positions where baby boomers are retiring in unprecedented numbers.

“We have private sector projects like LNG Canada, and potentially the Trans Mountain pipeline, that are going to be taking a whole bunch of workers out of play when it comes to public contracts, and that’s a challenge for government,” Horgan said in a year-end interview with Black Press. “I think there’s plenty of work to go around, and not enough people to do the work.”

Trans Mountain, now owned by the federal government, has moved well past the “potential” stage. The first pipe was laid on the Alberta side in December, and pipe has been delivered across B.C. as site work and hiring gear up.

From the Greater Edmonton section, the Trans Mountain right of way goes to Edson, Hinton, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Wabamun before reaching the Jasper-Mount Robson stretch where twinning was done a decade ago. Entering B.C. in the North Thompson region, the pipeline route goes by Avola, Barriere, Blue River, Clearwater, Valemount and Vavenby, a region where the forest industry has been wound down due to market conditions and loss of lumber to beetle infestations and fires.

From there the Trans Mountain line goes past Kamloops and Merritt, then down the Coquihalla Pass to Hope, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby.


@tomfletcherbc
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