1,000-man pipeline camp for Pacific NorthWest LNG approved

LNG plant hangs in limbo, awaiting federal approval and final investment decision

A pipeline worker camp that at its peak would house 1,000 workers has the go-ahead from the Peace River Regional District.

The camp, which would be built near Chetwynd in the Pine Pass, would serve as home base for workers building part of TransCanada’s 900-kilometre Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project.

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If approved, the pipeline would transport natural gas from Northeast B.C. to Petronas’s $11.4 billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project, where it will be liquefied and shipped to Asia.  

The camp would be the largest of nine along the pipeline route, ranging in size from 150 to 800 people. According to a filing with the regional district, the Pine Pass camp will have extra room to account for delays. 

On Thursday, the regional district granted a temporary use permit for the camp to operate.

It includes a kitchen, concession, office trailer, first aid station, mechanic building, warehouse and parking area for 680 vehicles. The plans do not include a pipeline yard, which will be built separately. 

The pipeline will be divided into three “spreads” supervised by separate prime contractors, in addition to a marine section. For that part of the line, crews are expected to live in a work camp aboard a barge. 

A worker camp in Pink Mountain. - File

Pacific NorthWest LNG is awaiting environmental permits from the federal government, which pressed pause on its review of the project in late March. Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the government needed additional time to review the LNG terminal’s impact on salmon habitat, as well as its greenhouse gas emissions. A decision on the federal permits is expected by June, at which point Petronas will make a final investment decision on the LNG terminal. 

Camp won’t be ‘dry’

The Peace River Regional District has certain regulatory power over worker camps, and is in charge of issuing permits for temporary use of land in its boundaries.  

In recent years, the board has implemented new requirements on temporary use permits to assess the social and economic impacts of worker camps, which proliferated in the region during the latest oil boom. 

In particular, some regional leaders had concerns about workers’ access to alcohol. Some oil and gas worker camps are “dry,” meaning alcohol is not permitted on site. 

In some cases, that has led to workers leaving the camp to drink, which has been a concern for residents in rural Pink Mountain, north of Fort St. John. 

In its submission to the regional district, TransCanada indicated workers “who choose to enjoy alcohol responsibly in the confines of their dwelling in the camp” will be allowed to do so. 

Contractors will pre-screen potential workers for drug and alcohol use, and will “enforce a zero-tolerance policy for drug use and alcohol abuse,” TransCanada says. 

The camp’s impact on local healthcare services, another concern, is expected to be minimal. 

According to documents provided to the regional district, work on the pipeline could begin as early as August if Pacific NorthWest LNG is approved. 


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