TC Energy officials say they are looking ahead to a strong 2021 construction season for the Coastal GasLink pipeline after a year of pandemic-related setbacks.
Kiel Giddens and Heather Desarmia gave the Peace River Regional District an update Thursday on the $6.6-billion pipeline project between the Peace region and Kitimat, now close to one-third completed.
So far, 125 kilometres of pipe has been installed, the result of 7.6 million hours of labour by a workforce of more than 4,000.
“It takes a village to build a project like this for sure,” said Giddens. “We've had certainly a challenging start to the year, with a public health order on Coastal GasLink ... We’re also looking ahead to a strong 2021 construction season.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed construction, and the workforce has not yet been brought back to full capacity.
By February, there were 2,800 workers brought back to work, under the 3,500 initially scheduled due to the health restrictions.
Full mobilization is expected later this summer, Giddens said, and workers are screened on a regular basis with daily temperature checks.
Once completed, the pipeline is approved for an initial capacity of 2.1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, with a potential of 5 billion cubic feet per day.
"We believe that we have a critical role to play in delivering the energy that is responsibly produced right in your backyard, the Peace region," Giddens said.
“There is no manual for how to build a pipeline in a pandemic, but we did expand our safety plan to make sure our workers are protected. We want to ensure we’re not putting a strain on the local health care providers.”
Worker vaccination clinics started on Monday, with project medical staff delivering Moderna vaccines to employees at the Sukunka Lodge.
Construction is also underway for Mount Merrick Lodge to accommodate more workers, which is expected to finish by the middle of the summer.
Community outreach has been another aspect of the project, with $787,000 contributed to local organizations in the regions impacted by the pipeline.
Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille thanked the company for the contributions by GasLink employees, who have organized 50/50 raffles and other fundraisers in support of organizations in his community.
"It's something you don't really look at when you talk big companies. We don't look at the personal part of an individual working and donating their time in giving maybe two or three dollars, that works out to be thousands of dollars," said Courtoreille. "I just want to make sure that I put that in there: giving back where they work is very important and I'd like tp thank them for that."
Work will also continue near the Murray River crossing and the compressor station at Wilde Lake. Roughly 645 employees work in those areas.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News