Kinder Morgan aims to utilize maximize job opportunities for local workers and contractors as the company set to begin construction on its new Trans Mountain pipeline in September.

“Merritt is going to be a construction hub; it’s going to be one of our bases as we’re executing this project, and so part of our commitment is to ensure our contractors are fulfilling and following through one our commitments,” said Greg Toth, senior manager for pipeline development.

About 40 people attended a drop-in information session at the civic centre on Wednesday (Feb. 22) to hear about construction plans in Merritt, including local accommodation for workers, job opportunities and other economic benefits the project promises to bring to the Nicola Valley.

There were also 15 expert staff on hand to answer questions from members of the public, but were not permitted to speak on the record to reporters. Questions from the media were instead fielded by Toth.

The company wants local job seekers and subcontractors to register through its website, and contractors will then use the database to find those seeking work on the pipeline, Toth told the Herald.

Toth said the project’s large general contractors will hire employees and subcontractors themselves.

More than 600 workers expected in Merritt at construction peak

Work on the project in the Merritt area is expected to begin this September, but construction of the pipeline itself won’t ramp up until about September of 2018.

That month — more than a year and a half from now — the pipeline workforce is expected to be at its peak in Merritt with an estimated 550 workers and another 60 management staff.

Pipeline construction is earmarked to take place between July 2018 and August 2019.

This coming September will involve preparation work in Merritt, including setting up a construction yard, a 20-acre pipe yard and a camp, all of which will need to be set up in fairly large locations that have yet to be determined.

The camp is expected to be able to accommodate 350 workers, but outside of that Kinder Morgan is looking to local accommodations such as hotels, RV parks and rental units to house its workers.

“It’s a catch-22,” said Toth. “You put in a camp and it detracts from the local benefits that would acrew from rentals, and RV’s and hotels.”

“We think that a sleeper camp — and it’s not sized for the full workforce — is really to manage that peak capacity as a compromise solution,” he said.

There will be many opportunities for jobs such as welders, truck drivers and most common of all labourers, 200 of which will be needed for the section of the pipeline where Merritt is located.

The pipeline expansion will also result in $419 million in construction spending in Merritt, and workers are expected to spend about $40 million in the city on things such as accommodation, meals and clothing.

The pipeline is expected to be in service in 2019, shipping petroleum from Edmonton to the terminal in Burnaby.

The Trans Mountain expansion would “twin” the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from the Alberta border through Merritt to the Burrard Inlet that has been in operation for 60 years.

The $6.8-billion pipeline twinning from northern Alberta to Burnaby would triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day, and result in a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic through Vancouver harbour.

The project will add 980 kilometres of new pipe, and 12 new pump stations to the route.

The project received approval from the federal government this past November and was given the green light from the B.C. government in January. It must meet 157 conditions from the National Energy Board (NEB) and another 37 from B.C.’s environmental assessment certificate.

Kinder Morgan’s board is expected to give the financial go-ahead in March or April.