SAINT JOHN – Two refining modules the size of three-storey apartment buildings were transported across the harbour from Lorneville Mechanical to the Irving Oil refinery recently – the first shipment from the new Spruce Lake Barge Terminal on the west side.
Styve Dumouchel, president of Lorneville Mechanical Contractors, says it would have been quite a sight to see these two massive units loaded onto a barge and floated across the harbour.
“It was hard to miss,” said Dumouchel in an interview. “They would have been about 42 feet high. They were also on stands on the barge so they were close to 50 feet high – probably close to five storeys, each of them weighing over 200 tons. So they’re not small.”
Lorneville has had the capacity to do large-scale fabrication work at their facilities in the Spruce Lake Industrial Park, but they haven’t been able to transport large pieces anywhere because of power lines, bridges and underpasses that get in the way.
The new barge facility has given them the opportunity to bid on projects like the one to supply fabricated refining modules to Irving. Dumouchel says it feels great to prove they can deliver because they face stiff competition from international fabricating companies.
“It went off without a hitch,” said Dumouchel about the shipping of the units, which was done by Atlantic Towing.
“We competed internationally against other companies for the [contract]. It proved the point that we can, in Saint John, compete [with companies around the world] and be successful.”
Lorneville won the contract after a bidding process that included a multinational with a large assembly plant in China and a company from Spain. Dumouchel says Lorneville wasn’t going to get the contract just because it was based in Saint John.
“It could have been done anywhere,” he said. “Sure there were advantages to Irving Oil doing this locally, in terms of travel costs. But if the price difference had been too great they would have had no choice but to choose an international company.”
Dumouchel said projects like this create a lot of jobs for local workers. Thirty-five people worked for six or seven months. Many of the tradespeople involved in the construction of the modules will now work at the refinery to install them.
“These projects don’t happen continuously but when they do come, they’re high-paying construction jobs that add to the community,” he said.
Lorneville is a large company with annual revenues around $120-million. It was involved in the refurbishment of Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station and was awarded a five-year tank maintenance contract at the Irving Oil refinery in 2014.
It also owns other companies and has major contracts in the rest of the country. They leveraged the barge facility to open a new line of business, with the new Irving contract potentially the first of many to come.
Dumouchel says constructing modular units off-site is an emerging trend in sectors like mining that don’t want to build large-scale production facilities from scratch in remote areas. It makes more sense to do that work remotely and then ship prefabricated units to the site.
In the case of the Irving Oil project, he says they could build the units indoors during the winter months, rather than be exposed to the weather and potential safety hazards doing the construction at the refinery itself.
“That job is done now,” said Dumouchel. “Our job is to be aware of what’s going on throughout the east coast of North America, which is our market and look for opportunities to bid on other modularization projects.”
Steve Carson, CEO of Develop Saint John, says there will also be opportunities for both local and international companies to use the barge facility for the same purpose.
“It really is the highway to the eastern seaboard of North America,” said Carson in an interview with Huddle. “It really puts us at a competitive advantage. You can do the modular fabrication here, cost-effectively, in a city that supports industry from a supply-chain perspective and has all the infrastructure around that.”