Bull Arm site given new life with Hebron

Buildings get upgrades, infrastructure added, as project proceeds

Published on November 1, 2012

Having seen a relative lull in activity since the construction of the Hibernia offshore oil installation, the Bull Arm Fabrication Site is now seeing a flurry of activity and will host about 3,500 workers, as construction of the Hebron project reaches its peak.

Already, about 400 people are working at the site.

Bull Arm, located about 150 kilometres from St. John’s, was originally developed in the 1990s for construction of topsides components and the base of Hibernia, with the addition of roads and service buildings.

Since that time, the same level of work has not been tackled and aging site infrastructure had to be refreshed and readied for Hebron.

“One of the first things we had to do was to survey all the buildings and decide which ones we’d be able to use and which ones we needed to use; and then, once we’d identified the buildings we’d wanted to use, we implemented an upgrade program,” explained Geoff Parker, senior project manager for Hebron.

Parker led a media tour of the site on Wednesday morning, explaining how it will be used for the Hebron project. The tour followed the official re-opening of the Bull Arm visitor’s centre, just off the Trans-Canada Highway.

A key building at Bull Arm, the “fabrication hall,” has received upgrades. The building is distinctive because of its sheer size, with its twin doors reaching 42 metres high.

“This is the second-largest door in North America,” Parker said, before craning his neck for a quick glance to the top. “The largest is at NASA.”

The living area for Hebron will be built behind the big doors and it will be larger than the living quarters module built for Hibernia, he noted.

Bull Arm also has a fuelling station, a medical station, a safety training area, pipe and paint shops, warehouse storage and “lay-down” areas for large materials, all readied for a ramp-up of Hebron work.

“There’s some buildings (at Bull Arm) that we don’t need to use. For example, there is an administrative office building here. ... The way technology is now, we can have such good communications between Bull Arm and St. John’s, we don’t need to move all the (Hebron) people here. The can stay at the St. John’s office to do a lot of that support for the ongoing construction,” Parker said, referring to the offices at the Tower Corporate Campus on Waterford Bridge Road.

There will still be “quite a few” offices on site. For example, a collection of construction trailers have been located just up from the drydock area and are already serving as office spaces. The drydock area is where the concrete base of the Hebron structure will get its start.

In addition to restoring some of the Hibernia buildings, the Hebron partners — including ExxonMobil (approximately 36 per cent stake), Chevron (27 per cent), Suncor (22 per cent), Statoil (10 per cent) and Nalcor Energy (five per cent) — have demolished some old Hibernia infrastructure, replacing it with new works.

“The two concrete batch plants are new,” Parker said, pointing to tall, white cylinders near the drydock. “There were two old batch plants from Hibernia, but that’s 20 years ago and so we demolished those batch plants and we built these two, new, state-of-the-art batch plants.”

Innovation, Business and Rural Development Minister Keith Hutchings took part in the site tour, having last seen

the site when it was being used for Hibernia.

“It’s at the early stage of the Hebron project, but again, very delighted from a provincial government point of view with the work that’s been done here at the facility. Certainly, talking to our partners here, it’s a first-rate facility,” he said, when asked about his return to Bull Arm.

“It’s a tribute to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that have garnered the experience for these megaprojects. Now we’re a player and we’re able to do these projects, complete them and continue to grow our industry here in the province.”

Nalcor Energy took over the Bull Arm site on March 31, 2009. The Crown corporation is hoping to see increased use of Bull Arm post-Hebron.

“It’s a real opportunity for us now to make improvements to the site,” said Chris Kieley, Nalcor Energy’s vice-president of strategy, planning and business development, who spoke with The Telegram by phone later in the day.

He said Nalcor is evaluating the site needs and potential users and considering strategic investments to serve future tenants.