Hebron vs. Hibernia

ExxonMobil Canada says more being done here in latest project

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on November 23, 2011
Geoff Parker — File photo

As the Hebron Public Review Commission completed its second day of sessions, it became apparent the offshore oil project will have a hard time escaping comparisons with Hibernia.

As the starter for the province’s offshore oil industry and a project with a gravity base structure (GBS), Hibernia has be­come the go-to project for comparisons with Hebron, particularly when it comes to potential work for people in this province.

“I think we do need to look back at Hibernia, because we do want to show that each time we do a project we’re further advancing the capability and capacity of the industry,” Hebron project manager Geoff Parker told The Telegram.

However, he said, the view of the Hebron project can be very different, depending on how the projects are compared.

“We just need to make sure that when we do those comparisons, we’re comparing the right things, we’re comparing apples with apples,” he said.

Parker was referring to more than one presenter to the public review commission having cited a report, submitted to the commission by Memorial University economist Dr. Wade Locke, stating the local employment for Hibernia to first oil was 66 per cent, while Hebron’s local employment would only be up to 50 per cent.

On Tuesday, Parker opened the public session at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s by reminding the commissioner that comparison does not tell the whole story. Comparisons, according to Hebron partners, need to take into account the fact the Hebron numbers are preliminary estimates and Hibernia went into overruns during its construction, experiencing delays in work requiring overtime and, therefore, increased local work hours.

Another comparison might be that more of the large pieces making up the Hebron structure will be built in Newfoundland and Labrador, he said.

“I look at the real items that we’re building and we’ll be building more real items here for Hebron than on Hibernia, in terms of the number of modules that we’ll be building, in terms of the tonnage that we’ll be building, in terms of the complexity of what we’re doing. So all of those I see as doing more than Hibernia,” Parker said.

One of the most significant differences will be the living quarters module. The Hebron project will see the living quarters for offshore workers constructed at Nalcor’s Bull Arm fabrication site.

“That was not done for Hibernia.”

In addition to the living quarters, “one or two” more of the larger pieces, the modules, for the Hebron topsides are to be completed in Newfoundland and Labrador. For the Hibernia project, only one of the larger topsides modules was completed in the province.

Parker said two local companies have been identified for bidding on the high-level contract for the living quarters module. They will be teamed with an international fabrication company with experience in developing this type of structure, as a means of transfering knowledge of how to bid on and complete a project the size of the living quarters, preparing them for future projects in the offshore area.

Looking to the detailed design work for the Hebron GBS, all of it will be completed in Newfoundland and Labrador, while about half of that work was done here for Hibernia.

All mechanical outfitting for the GBS will be completed in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Hibernia project completed some, but not all, of that work in-province.

Like with Hibernia, all civil construction on the GBS — creation of the massive, heavy concrete structure — will be completed at Bull Arm.

The Hebron representatives said this type of high-level project distribution is what they can firmly state at this point. More detailed decisions — for example, on what pieces from the modules can be fabricated in the province before assembly — will be left up to contractors to decide as their work progresses.

Cost overruns that arose with Hibernia are expected to be avoided as a result of, in part, increased knowledge of GBS and topsides construction. That knowledge has been obtained, in part, through previous work with GBS structures learning from problems encountered in projects like Hibernia.

For example, Hibernia was constructed with a utilities shaft within the GBS. That type of design has been shown to be prone to construction delays and cost overruns, Parker said. Because of this, Hebron will be covering utilities requirements within its utilities process module, a piece of the topsides.

Further details on differences between Hibernia and Hebron are expected to become apparent as more decisions are made on the project and Hebron moves further along in its estimated five-year initial development phase.