Top Project 2008: Industrial


The start-up this year of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s $9.3-billion Horizon Oil Sands Project has been one of the most highly anticipated events of the year for the global petroleum industry.

While Horizon has an open-pit mining component, the project goes much further. There is also an ore preparation plant, extraction facilities, oil refining (primary and secondary upgrading), plus associated support units such as sulphur and hydrogen plants, power generation facilities, and, of course, numerous tanks.

Horizon initially will produce 115,000 bbl/d of synthetic crude. In the future, that will expand to 250,000 bbl/d-another sign of Canada's growing importance as an energy powerhouse.

The project is located 70 km north of Fort McMurray, where Canadian Natural owns and operates leases covering 115,000 acres through lease arrangements with the province. Drilling on the leases indicates an estimated 16 Bbbl of bitumen in place.

About six to eight billion barrels using today's technologies are recoverable.

Working for the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor Technip Italy S.p.A., PCL Industrial Constructors Inc. constructed the majority of the $750-million Primary Upgrading unit. The unit, which consists of a diluents recovery unit and a delayed coking unit, is the largest of several units that make up the project. In fact, it is as high as a 50-storey building.

Among the construction highlights:

  • Due to the labour shortage, up to 80 per cent of the construction crew was from outside of the province, meaning PCL had to recruit skilled craft workers from across Canada and beyond
  • The project used approximately 250 skilled temporary foreign craft workers from Portugal, the United Kingdom, India, the Philippines, South Africa, and the United States.
  • Workers were flown to and from an on-site aerodrome.
  • Construction took three and a half years.
  • 1,600 construction workers were used during peak construction, translating to 5 million man-hours. PCL's work also included the site infrastructure, civil, structural, mechanical, module construction, pipe fabrication, piping, and support for the electrical scope of work.


Creeburn Lake Lodge is the latest example of how high the bar is being raised for housing workers in Alberta's oilsands. Creeburn Lake Lodge is located 65km north of Fort McMurray and consists of 219 modular structures connected to a central building. The camp can accommodate 500 people.

Included are a dining room, games room, fitness centre, meeting rooms, television rooms, laundry facilities, and on-site parking with plug-ins. Each worker's room features a 26-inch LCD TV/ DVD system, high-speed Internet, and individual environment controls-especially important considering that harsh climate. The main lobby features 26 ft vaulted ceilings with exposed timber trusses. There's also a licensed lounge with an 800 sq. ft south-facing deck.

What makes this project different, though, is that it is a joint venture between ATCO Frontec (the general contractor) and the Fort McKay First Nation. Site preparation was completed by the Fort McKay Group of Companies while the modular buildings were manufactured in Calgary were transported to the site by truck.

Key consulting engineers were Almita Manufacturing Ltd., Stebnicki + Partners Consulting Electrical Engineers, and Waterworks Technologies.


The more than $5-billion Long Lake Project southeast of Fort McMurray is a joint venture between Nexen Inc. and Opti Canada Inc. When fully operational, Phase 1 is expected to produce 72,000 bbl/d of bitumen, which translates to 58,500 bbl/d of premium synthetic crude oil. It's estimated that the more than two Bbbl of recoverable reserves and resources at Long Lake translates to a reserve life of about 40 years.

The project has two primary components. Bitumen is recovered using steam assisted gravity drainage, commonly called SAGD. It is then sent to an upgrader. What makes the project different from others is that it uses new technologies such as gasification and Opti's proprietary OrCrude upgrading process, and that Long Lake is the first SAGD project to integrate an upgrader on site.

The primary contractors are Ledcor Industries and Flint Energy Services.


As a major supplier of expanded polystyrene insulation products, Plasti-Fab needed to increase its production and storage capabilities of its Crossfield plant to keep up with growing demand.

Cana Construction Ltd. was hired to design and construct a 79,000 sq. ft building adjacent to Plasti-Fab's existing plant. Inside the plant 71,000 sq. ft is allocated to the manufacturing plant, while 4,000 sq. ft each is devoted to office and shop space.

Cana was also instructed to use expanded polystyrene insulation products wherever possible. The building is mainly a one-storey steel frame structure with exception of the west end, which has a total height of 59 ft to accommodate future silo bags of raw materials. In addition, there is a complex series of high-level catwalks for access to the silo bags and roof equipment. Cana completed the project on time and under budget.

Boucock Craig Wong was the project architect. Consulting engineers were Grant Structural Engineering (structural), Pederson M.V Engineering Ltd. (mechanical), Beaubien Glover Maskell Engineering Ltd. (electrical), and Idea Group Inc. (civil).

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