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PCL Construction Heads Ring-road Project

PCL Construction will lead a consortium, Access Roads Edmonton Ltd., which the province has selected under a historic $1-billion agreement to finance, design, build and maintain the southeast extension of Edmonton's Anthony Henday Drive ring-road.

The agreement to build the 11-kilometre stretch of road lasts 30 years and marks the Alberta Government's first public-private partnership, or P3, as the type of relationship is called for short. Construction should begin this month and is scheduled for completion in October 2007.

The agreement calls for the province to pay the consortium $23.9 million a year, plus $9 million annually for maintenance. The project involves 24 bridge structures, including four flyovers and five interchanges.

The successful consortium, selected from three on a short-list, comprises: Marshall Macklin Monaghan, Stantec Consulting Ltd., ERES Geotechnical, Golder Associates Ltd., Earth Tech Canada Inc., Bel-MK Engineering Ltd. (design); PCL Construction Management Inc., PCL-Maxam, Lafarge Canada Inc., Sureway Construction Ltd. (building); Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board, ABN AMRO Bank N.V. Canada Branch (financing); and Transportation Systems Management Inc. (maintenance and operations).

CNRL's Horizon To Go Ahead
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. confirmed approval of its Horizon Oil Sands Project, which will become Alberta's fourth oil sands mine. Employment on the project, now 1,300, is expected to reach 6,500 late in 2006 and early in 2007.

Earlier, CNRL Oil Sands Vice-President Real Doucet, P.Eng., said that in the unlikely event of foreign workers being brought in under a special agreement with Ottawa to work on the project, they would not be paid less than Canadian workers.

“There is no such thing as cheap labour,” said Mr. Doucet, in response to union concerns that imported workers could place Canadians at a disadvantage.

Suncor to Build its Third Upgrader In Alberta
Suncor Energy Inc. will build its third upgrader at Fort McMurray, despite earlier suggestions that it might go elsewhere.

The company has set aside alternative plans calling for an upgrading expansion in the
U.S. Suncor had raised that option during a dispute with the Alberta Government over oil sands royalties.

Details on the third upgrader have yet to be announced. However, it is expected to be double that of the current expansion at Fort McMurray.

Meanwhile, Suncor reported that it expects to resume full production at Fort McMurray in the third quarter, following a Jan. 4 fire that caused $10 million in damage, mainly to a coker fractionator in the existing upgrader facilities. As repairs proceed, production is expected to be halved to 110,000 barrels a day.

Insurance will cover most of the losses.

Venezuelan Workers Could Help Fill Void In Alberta Oilpatch
Venezuela may help Alberta meet a critical shortage of oilpatch workers.

The Academy of Learning intends to start training courses this spring for workers brought in from the South American oil-producing republic, which has experienced layoffs in its oil sector. The training organization is working with the Leduc-Nisku Economic Development Authority in developing a program geared towards Venezuelan workers.

Training and experience in Venezuela come close to matching Canadian standards, but the workers do need to be tested and familiarized with Alberta conditions.

Schlumberger Opens Reservoir Fluids Centre
Schlumberger Oilfield Services has opened a reservoir fluids centre in Edmonton's Research Park.
The 30,000 sq. ft. centre becomes the home of Schlumberger Canada's Oilphases-DBR division, formerly DB Robinson & Associates Ltd., a firm Schlumberger acquired in 2002.

With a staff of 60, the centre will advance research on reservoir fluids, as well as develop related knowledge, equipment and methodologies.

ATCO Provides Housing For Icelandic Smelter
The European division of ATCO Structures Inc. will supply a pre-fab village designed to house 1,500 workers at an Alcoa Inc. aluminum smelter being built in eastern Iceland.

Manufacturing under the ATCO contracts, which also involve design, engineering and installation, will take place at ATCO factories in Budapest, Hungary. Some deliveries will come from ATCO's facilities in Diboll, Tex.

Canadian Oil Exports Could Benefits From Changing Pipeline Flow
Alberta oil may reach a wider market if a proposal proceeds to reverse the flow of an existing but underutilized, south-to-north pipeline linking Houston, Tex., to the U.S. Midwest.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has actively supported what's being dubbed the Corsicana Project. The route under consideration is owned by Mobil Pipeline Co., an ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. affiliate.

According to Mobile Pipeline spokesman Brian Dunphy: “We are still assessing the project. No final decision has been made at this point.”

Edmonton Upgrades Treatment Plant
The City of Edmonton will spend $20.5 million enhancing its Gold Bar Waste Water Treatment Plant.
Financed through the Infrastructure Canada-Alberta Program, the project includes installation of two new tanks and components to provide a high-rate clarification system, as well as screening and diversion facilities to reduce raw sewage entering the North Saskatchewan River through combined storm and sanitary sewer overflows.

The senior governments will invest $13.3 million and the city $7.2 million.

Premier Muses About Alta.-Sask. Road Link
Premier Ralph Klein has speculated that building a road from Fort McMurray to La Loche in northwestern Saskatchewan might help alleviate a labour shortage in the oil sands. Mr. Klein discussed the road link — and other ideas to boost oil sands manpower — during a speech to the Edmonton Construction Association. La Loche, population 2,000, lies about 75 km east of Fort McMurray.

Incident Prompts Syncrude to Push Forward Maintenance
Syncrude Canada Ltd. will advance a planned maintenance shutdown, following a Jan. 30 explosion in one of its Fort McMurray hydrogen plants. A scheduled shutdown planned for April started in mid-February and will reduce production in the first quarter by 25 per cent, to 15 million barrels.

EnCana Sells Properties And Refocuses Efforts
EnCana Corp. will push ahead with acquisition of assets in the U.S., particularly in Texas, while divesting itself of $2.5 billion-worth of non-core properties in Ecuador, the Gulf of Mexico and Western Canada.

“These divestiture plans are consistent with EnCana's sharpened focus on our North American resource play holdings in Western Canada, the U.S. Rocky Mountain states and Texas,” said EnCana CEO Gwyn Morgan, P.Eng.

EnCana was also expected to apply proceeds to buying back some of its own shares.

TransAlta Corp. Seeks Rev Up of Sarnia Generator
Discussions with Ontario are aimed at increasing output from TransAlta Corp.'s cogeneration plant at Sarnia, Ont. The two-year-old plant has been running at a third of its 575-MW capacity because TransAlta does not have long-term contracts. It's uneconomic to generate for the spot market, the company has said.

However, the Ontario Government, which has retreated from deregulation and capped residential rates, is seeking bids for new generation.

IBM to Back U of A's Machine Learning Centre
IBM, in conjunction with the Alberta Government, will support a $1.2-million, University of Alberta centre on machine learning. The province will invest $450,000 to the three-year pilot project, with IBM and the U of A contributing funds, technology and facilities valued at $810,000.

The centre's focus will be in the areas of machine intelligence, nanotechnology and biological simulation.

Montana-Alberta Electricity Link Under Consideration
Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. is spearheading plans for a 300-km, 230-kilovolt “merchant” transmission line to carry power in either direction between Great Falls, Mont., and Lethbridge.

Construction could start next year on the $95-million project, which would be the first direct U.S.-Alberta electrical link. Currently, power flowing between Alberta and Montana is routed through Saskatchewan or British Columbia.

Montana Alberta Tie is a joint venture involving Calgary's Rocky Mountain Power Ltd., Scott Land and Permitting, and Oregon's Lectrix Ltd. The latter was formed in 1999, primarily to pursue power quality and reliability projects, and to develop merchant electrical transmission projects.

Streamlining Planned For Crown Lands Approvals
Approval processes for use of public lands for energy, sustainable resources and environmental purposes will become more integrated, Alberta Sustainable Development Minister David Coutts told the Alberta Chamber of Resources annual meeting.

An integrated approval process should alleviate needs for users of Crown lands to individually approach the departments of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development. Alberta Chamber of Resources Executive Director Brad Anderson, P.Geol., said that such integration is “certainly going to make it more predictable.”

U of A Tech Transfer Celebrates First Decade
Technology transfer initiatives have paid back the University of Alberta some $27 million in licensing fees in the last decade. The technology transfer office, which now operates as TEC Edmonton in a joint venture with Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, recently marked its 10th anniversary.
Since opening, the university agency, which encourages commercial development of university research, has recorded 818 inventions, 300 patents and 200 licences.

“Our team is pleased with our achievements and we are thankful for the wealth of knowledge and innovation at the University of Alberta that continues to fuel new and important discoveries and beneficial products for all Canadians,” said TEC Edmonton CEO Dr. Peter Robertson, P.Eng.

North West Unveils Upgrader Intentions
North West Upgrading Inc. has released public disclosure documents prior to environmental review of a $1.3-billion oils sands upgrader planned for a location immediately west of Agrium's Redwater fertilizer operations in Sturgeon County, north of Edmonton.

North West plans a facility that by 2010 will process 200,000 barrels a day. Detailed engineering will occur in 2006 and 2007, construction in 2008.

SNC-Lavalin Gains Algeria Water Contract
SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has won a $750-million, design-build-operate contract for a drinking water and pumping system in Algeria. Scheduled for 2007 completion, the 600,000-cubic-metre-a-day facility will be located 100 km east of Algiers.

Terasen Confirms Interest in Expanding Trans Mountain Pipeline
Based on international surveys, Terasen Pipelines Inc. says there's strong interest in its Trans Mountain Expansion. Terasen proposes a staged expansion of the existing Trans Mountain system between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C.

Support for staged increases in capacity, starting in 2006, was particularly evident in China. New capacity will be required to transport growing volumes of output from Alberta's oil sands to Asia Pacific markets.

Meanwhile, Pat Daniel, P.Eng., CEO of rival Enbridge Inc., confirmed that its planned 1,250-km Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast could be completed in 2009, providing an agreement is reached with users of the planned 30-inch, 400,000 barrel-per-day pipeline.

TransCanada Converting Part of Pipeline System To Carry Oil to Midwest
TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. will convert part of its natural gas pipeline system running east from Hardisty, Alta., to Manitoba to carry oil destined for the U.S. Midwest. TransCanada's Keystone proposal also calls for construction of 1,600 km of new pipeline through the Dakotas, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois, to deliver 400,000 bbd of Alberta oil to American markets.

Agrium Plans Plant Expansion At Carseland
Agrium Inc. is proceeding with detailed engineering for an expansion of its nitrogen plant at Carseland, southeast of Calgary. If it proceeds, the expansion would increase the plant's annual output of slow-release fertilizer, starting next January, to 150,000 tonnes from 30,000 tonnes.

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