Tackling tough terrain is a specialty for Macro Spiecapag Joint Venture (MSJV), the Construction Contractor for Spread 5B of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. This 85-kilometre spread runs from the Coquihalla Summit to Wahleach pump station (near Bridal Falls) in British Columbia. It features exceptional terrain and engineering challenges. We recently connected with MSJV to learn more about its plans for pipeline construction in Spread 5B.

What’s your process for hiring the construction crews and related workers for the Project?

MSJV will engage with interested individuals to determine their skills and what position or positions they might excel at. We will do this in a couple of ways — holding open houses and job fairs.

We acknowledge and will adopt TMEP’s commitment to supporting the sustainability of Aboriginal, local and regional communities through employment opportunities over the life of the Project. MSJV will participate in development of an Aboriginal, local and regional workforce through efficient and accessible training programs, maximizing participation in available employment opportunities.

Tell us a bit about your companies' history and experience with energy infrastructure construction.

Macro Spiecapag Joint Venture brings together the experience of two leading pipeline construction companies. Combined, the two companies have more than 90 years of experience in 60-plus countries with more than 50,000 km of pipeline built, including extensive experience in steep mountainous terrain.

Macro Pipeline Inc. was formed in 1994. Based in Fort St. John, BC, it is a major provider of pipeline, facilities and maintenance services across Western Canada. Macro is known in the north as ‘the steep slope company.’ It carries out extensive remote and rough terrain work, making it a leader in mountain pipeline construction. It has one of the largest skilled workforces in Western Canada, peaking in excess of 1,200 workers for pipeline and facility projects, and an extensive fleet of modern heavy equipment, transport trucks and picker trucks. It can operate numerous construction spreads simultaneously, handling pipelines from two inches to 60 inches in diameter.

The history of Spiecapag has been marked by unprecedented, ongoing success. Spiecapag brings almost 90 years of continuous experience in successful production of pipelines and related works and it has the capacity and expertise to carry out major projects worldwide. It operates in more than 60 countries on five continents, laying more than 50,000 kilometres of pipelines as part of the most ambitious projects in extreme environments. These include the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, the Russian Arctic, tropical forests of Cameroon and Papua New Guinea, the deltas of Borneo and the peaks of the Andes in Peru and Columbia. As well, it has experience in large oil or gas installations including terminals, depots and pumping and compression stations in most parts of the world.

Describe the actual work you will carry out.

TMEP has awarded us Spread 5B, which is 85 kilometres of 36-inch pipeline. This spread starts at the old Coquihalla toll booth (the Summit), down the mountainsides into Hope and then approximately 35 kilometres west through the upper Fraser Valley to Wahleach pump station near Bridal Falls.

Do you have any particular engineering challenges that are unique or will require innovative solutions?

Beyond the typical challenges of a major project development, the Project also has site-specific characteristics that will test this construction team.

  • The scope and complexity of construction necessitates meticulous planning to meet the demands of simultaneous work in many areas while mitigating risk.
  • The Project is planned during a period that places intense pressure on resources, with other projects in the region competing for the same limited pool of skilled personnel.

Spread 5B also has the following technical challenges:

  • Cable crane — Installation of an 18-ton cable crane over the Dry Gulch valley to get pipe and welding equipment up and down the hills. 
  • Cable winches — Drill and cement bases will be installed to mount cable winches on. These winches are then used to lift and lower large equipment like excavators and bulldozers into the gulch.
  • Grade and ditch blasting — There are approximately 1.3 million cubic metres of rock to blast. A lot of this is close to highways, waterways, existing underground facilities and geohazard areas.
  • Rock saw ditching units will be used to cut through rock wherever possible.
  • Tunnel — Pipeline installation in existing tunnel through steep geohazard areas in the mountains.
  • Microtunnelling, an underground or trenchless technology, for highway crossings.
  • Four isolated open-cut crossings and one open-cut crossing of the Coquihalla River, plus several other major tributaries.
  • Some of the sloped areas are 28-degree side slopes which ‘skinny’s up’, or narrows the working platform, making access a challenge.

While construction poses challenges, MSJV has a corporate and contractual commitment towards responsible environmental and social behaviors that will be the basis of the Project’s sustainability and community legacy. 

Tell us about your company’s mission statement and core values.

MISSION STATEMENT — We are committed to providing our clients with world-class pipeline construction services while upholding the highest standards of safety, quality and environmental stewardship. By working in partnership with Aboriginal groups and local communities, MSJV will create employment opportunities while incorporating local customs, beliefs and the enduring commitment that we should leave an environmental legacy that future generations would be proud of.

CORE VALUES — We believe a zero-incident project is achievable. We are investing in the development of our construction workforce. By providing education, training and appropriate tools to our workforce, we give them the ability to execute the Project in a safe, efficient and sustainable manner. This provides value to our client, confidence to our workforce and trust in the communities in which we operate.   

VISION — Through our actions, behaviours and the application of our safety commitments, each of us at MSJV will achieve our vision of zero harm to people and assets and zero environmental incidents.

How is MSJV going to achieve the goal of zero incidents?

Through thoughtful planning and building on our culture of safety. Safety is not just something we do because we must. It’s the way we do business. From our senior leadership to our boots on the ground, everyone here has an integral part to play. We will hold each other accountable through our actions and behaviours to achieve our vision.

Please talk about your commitments to worker and public safety, and environmental protection.

PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITMENTS — We carry out comprehensive project planning. We're driven to do more than the status quo. We’re committed to a Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle of improvement. This ensures that MSJV always keeps the safety of our most valuable assets — our workforce, the public and the greater community at large — in the forefront of everything we do.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION — MSJV is committed to operating in an environmentally responsible manner and complying with all regulatory commitments. We will comply with federal and provincial regulations — and meet the many conditions and commitments that are laid out within the Pipeline Environmental Protection Plan, the numerous Environmental Management Plans and other environmental reference documents that have been created by Trans Mountain and approved by the National Energy Board.

Key environmental factors integrated within our construction and environmental planning include: river and wetland crossings; protection of fish and water quality; timing of activities to protect sensitive species of plants and animals; and being prepared for potentially encountering historically contaminated sites, archaeological sites and geohazards such as rockslides. MSJV has the experience to execute this technically and environmentally challenging Project in a safe and environmentally responsible way.