1,000 workers on site to start $40-billion LNG megaproject

One year ago, the partners behind LNG Canada formally sanctioned the $40-billion project.

Today, about 1,000 workers are on site in Kitimat — about half from the Kitimat-Terrace area — and that’s just to set the stage for the main construction phase, which isn’t expected to start for another couple of years.

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Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth said the area is “definitely buzzing.

“The hotels are full, there’s another brand new hotel that’s being built. There’s a brand new 35-unit townhouse development being done.”

Located at the mouth of Douglas Channel, next to the recently upgraded Rio Tinto aluminum smelter — the scale of which is impressive in its own right — the LNG Canada site at 400 hectares is about the size of 550 soccer fields.

At the north end, the Cedar Valley Lodge, a self-contained work village that will house 4,500 workers, is starting to take shape, while at the south end, dredging barges are busy scooping up sediment — some of it contaminated from historical industrial activities — to deepen the channel for liquefied natural gas carriers. The dredging alone currently employs about 150 workers.

In between these two bookends is the main site, where a battalion of more than 70 pieces of earthworks machinery has already moved about one-third of the 2.8 million cubic metres of fill needed to prepare the site.

If you ground up the Great Pyramid of Giza, it wouldn’t quite provide all the fill that’s needed.

On site are 6,000 40-metre steel pilings made in Turkey. They will be driven into the ground to support the LNG complex, which will include two LNG processing modules, known as trains.

In July 2021, LNG modules that will be built in Asia are expected to arrive. That is when most of the tradespeople — electricians, welders, pipefitters — will be mobilized to start putting it all together. Peak construction is between 2022 and 2024. “That’s when the skyline of the project changes every day, virtually,” said LNG Canada general manager Vince Kenny, who spent the last five years on an LNG project in Australia. “It’s quite an intense couple of years.”

From 2022 to 2024, up to 7,500 people will be employed on the project. The shifts will be staggered, with employees working two weeks on and one week off, so no more than 4,500 will be on site at any one time. Another 2,500 will be working on the associated $6.2-billion Coastal GasLink project.

The project is so massive that a work camp in Kitimat, the 1,186-room Sitka Lodge, is being used to house some of the workers who are building a bigger work camp.

Cedar Valley Lodge is more like a temporary town than a work camp. The work village, being built by Bird-ATCO Joint Venture, will have maximum occupancy of 4,500 rooms, an entertainment and recreation complex that will feature a movie theatre, separate gyms for men and women and a basketball court. The first 1,500 beds will open in April 2020.

The idea behind Cedar Valley Lodge is to avoid having workers moving into Kitimat or Terrace and pushing rents up, which often occurs on large projects when contractors provide live-out allowances.

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