Located in the Alberta oil sands, the Mackay River Commercial Project was the first phase of a four-phase steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) facility producing 35,000 barrels of bitumen per day.

PCL was tasked with a majority of the pipe fabrication and module assembly for the plant and a wide on-site scope. The Mackay River Commercial Project marked PetroChina’s first project in the Canadian oil sands through Brion Energy, and the company turned to PCL’s experience in the region and our reputation for excelling on difficult projects to guide them through their freshman outing.

That guidance including tackling several tough tasks — most notably getting staff and crew on-site to safety during the 2016 Horse River wildfire that ravaged the region and caused the evacuation of Fort McMurray. Over 1200 workers had to be transported out or billeted elsewhere on incredibly short notice as the fire rapidly spread that May.

PCL’s resources and connections in the area also provided unique solutions for the project. While the boggy conditions of the sub-Arctic muskeg in the area are an old hand for our construction teams, the Mackay River location featured exceptionally poor and waterlogged soil conditions, which led to sinking laydown areas, poor footing for cranes and even the road to site needing to be redone multiple times. PCL’s in-house engineering team in Edmonton was utilized to find creative solutions to a number of these problems, and the PCL module yards in Nisku provided additional storage space so fewer modules needed to be stored on-site. 

Though 85% of the pipe fabrication and module assembly were handled by PCL’s facilities in the Edmonton area, equipment and modules were also shipped to site from all over the world, including Texas and Europe. As these materials began arriving in Edmonton out of sequence, and as the soggy site had little spare room for extra storage, PCL housed the extra equipment on our module yards, preserving them and performing maintenance over a winter until they were required on site.

We presented innovative solutions to the project's design challenges, such as the HVAC ducting supports in the pre-engineered buildings. With having our pipe fabrication and module assembly facility, we were able to self-perform the electrical work and provide cost and schedule certainty.

In the end, the Mackay River Commercial Project was a successful venture for PetroChina, providing them with a foothold for their burgeoning business in the Canadian energy sector.

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