Canadian Consulting Engineer

News (August 01, 2004)

August 1, 2004
By Canadian Consulting Engineer



Quebec and Ontario thirst for power

Canada’s two biggest provinces are scrambling to find ways to build new power generation facilities to meet growing demand.

Quebec, which is traditionally considered as a land flowing with hydropower potential, is now concerned because of unreliable water levels. A report issued in July by the province’s energy board, the Rgie d’energie Qubec, assessed the province’s energy needs and found that Hydro-Qubec will not be able to meet growing demand by 2009. Even taking into account billions of dollars of investment in new and refurbished generating stations, such as the $454-million Grand-Mre project, the report said the province “will be heavily dependent on imports in the coming years.”

One project to ease the problem hit a roadblock in July. Hydro-Quebec had proposed building the Suroit gas-fired thermal cogeneration plant in Beauharnois, southwest of Montreal. Faced with objections from environmentalists, the provincial government has now backed off and decided to conduct parliamentary hearings. The Suroit plant has already been designed by SNC-Lavalin and would add 836 MW of power capacity for a cost of approximately $550 million.

Quebec is also investing heavily in wind power. The report by its power board noted that wind power “is increasingly interesting,” and “now considered reliable.” Hydro-Qubec received proposals for 4,000 MW of wind power in June and plans a proposal call for another 1,000 MW later this year. Companies participating in the first tender include Axor, the consulting engineering/construction firm based in Montreal.

Faced with an even more critical power shortage than Quebec, and having promised to shut down its coal-burning plants, Ontario is in even more dire straits. In July the government announced it will spend $900 million on refurbishing another nuclear power unit at Pickering A, east of Toronto. Critics pointed out that the previous refurbishment of Unit 4 at Pickering A suffered long delays and cost $1.25 billion to bring on line. However, the U.S. consultants brought in to oversee the new refurbishment project at Unit 1 assured reporters with the Toronto Star that blunders that plagued the earlier project won’t recur. They suggested that a major problem with the earlier refurbishment was its fast-track nature, noting that construction started when engineering was only 3% complete.

Aside from the new Pickering project of 515 MW, Ontario is calling for proposals to build other power stations and find conservation measures worth up to 2,500 MW. It is expanding facilities at the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station at Niagara Falls. And in June, the government called for proposals for 300 MW of renewable energy and received a staggering response of proposals worth 4,400 MW. It will decide on the winners by the end of the year.

Interestingly, Ontario has hired international management consultants to oversee these projects. The Chicago law firm, Schiff Hardin LLP, is auditing the Pickering refurbishment. An international firm known as NERA Consulting, part of the Marshall MacLennan Group of New York, is organizing the bidding for supplying other new generating power.


Teams bid on Sea-to-Sky project

With the 2010 Winter Olympics not far up the road, British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation is hiring companies to help it improve the Sea-to-Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler. Three teams were selected to submit proposals for the project in August. The province wants a partner to design, build, finance and operate the 100-kilometre mountainous route, otherwise known as Highway 99.

SNC-Lavalin’s Vancouver office (Tom Tasaka, P.Eng.) is the owner’s engineer on the entire route, and several consulting engineering firms are on the three bidding teams. Black Tusk Highway Group includes AMEC and Parsons. The S2S Transportation Group has Peter Kiewit, JJM Group, Hatch Mott MacDonald, ND LEA, UMA and McElhanney Consulting. The Sound Highway Development Consortium includes CHIC (who built Ontario’s Highway 407), Delcan and Klohn Crippen.

In July, the Ministry announced its decision over a controversial section of the road through West Vancouver. The section is soaking up $130 million of the $600 million budget. Local residents had been lobbying for a tunnel, but the government has decided to build a four-lane overland road that will begin east of Eagle Ridge and continue sloping up from the existing highway.

The overland route will cost $40 million less than the tunnel option, will serve traffic growth for 50 as opposed to 26 years, and should result in half the number of fatal crashes. With environmental approval for the overland route in hand, the government said it will work to mitigate the impacts further in the detailed design process.

With more than a hint of sarcasm, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon replied to West Vancouverites complaining about the road’s impact on their community. “Just as West Vancouver would work hard to mitigate the environmental impact of their future development plans calling for 1,200 luxury homes, a school and a golf course in the same area, the Province will also make every effort to minimize environmental impacts.”


Exider train ends journey

Siemens “exider” train rolled to its final stop at Union Station in Toronto in June.

A travelling exhibit of the company’s industrial automation technology, the 300-m long train consisted of nine boxcars of interactive exhibits ranging from process controls to industrial robotics to monitoring systems.

The train has been on the tracks since 2002 after it began its journey in western Europe. It travelled through 22 countries, moving across eastern Europe and through China, then was shipped to Mexico and North America this year.


Oil trumps water in Alberta

A dispute between those who would conserve fresh water in Alberta and an oil company that wants to use it for extracting oil and gas has been judged in favour of the oil companies.

The Alberta Environmental Appeals Board decided in April to recommend that a licence be granted to Capstone Energy to withdraw up to 210,000 cubic metres of fresh water from the Red Deer River for oilfield injection.

Opponents to the decision were the City of Red Deer and Mountain View Regional Water Services Commission. They argued that once fresh water is injected into the ground it is “for all practical purposes” lost for ever from the hydrology cycle. The Appeal Board agreed with their basic position, but decided it had to balance the protection of fresh water supplies with the economic needs of the oil industry. It recommended that the licence to extract water be given for up to three years.

Upholding the Great Lakes

Quebec, Ontario and eight U.S. states have signed draft agreements that will prevent the diversion of water out of the Great Lakes region and upper Saint Lawrence River. The draft agreement signed in July stipulates that all water withdrawn must be returned to the same Great Lakes watershed. One of the major perceived threats to the Great Lakes was the potential for a Chicago Diversion to channel water to the Mississippi River.

A 90-day public consultation period followed the signing of the draft agreement. Individual states and provinces now have to enact their own rules and regulations in compliance.


Hatch purchases Acres

Two of Ontario’s largest firms have joined. Acres International announced in July that it has accepted a purchase offer from Hatch of Mississauga. The two firms have collaborated on various projects in recent years.

Hatch Associates is an international firm with 5,200 staff and 80 offices worldwide. Acres is an employee-owned company with 800 staff, offices across Canada and headquarters in Oakville. Its history stretches back to 1924 when its founder, Henry Acres, was in charge of engineering the Adam Beck I power station in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Recently the firm has been receiving media attention over a legal action in L
esotho, South Africa.

Acres will continue operating from its own offices. It focuses on the power, water and oil and gas sectors. Hatch has strong expertise in mining, metallurgy, infrastructure and energy.

MMM buys Rybka Smith & Ginsler

Marshall Macklin Monaghan, a Toronto consulting engineering firm of approximately 500 employees, has acquired Rybka Smith and Ginsler. The latter is an electrical and mechanical consulting engineering firm that was founded in 1933 and has 120 employees. It, too, is based in Toronto.

Another recent change at Marshall Macklin Monaghan was a substantial investment by Borealis Capital Corporation in the firm.


National landmark rehabilitation wins Ontario award

Consulting Engineers of Ontario announced the winners of its second annual awards at its annual meeting held near Huntsville in June.

Golder Associates, won the top award, named the Willis Chipman Award, for the conservation and rehabilitation of the Library of Parliament in Ottawa.

In the category for firms with 1 to 15 employees, the award went to BTE Services for the MXL fire alarm system at the John Deere Welland Works. Read Jones Christoffersen won the award in the category of firms with 16 to 50 employees for the Bahen Centre for Information Technology at the University of Toronto.

Two awards were given in the category for firms with 51 or more employees. Delcan-Hatch Joint Venture won for the Sheppard Subway project. Dillon Consulting won for the Rennie Street and Brampton Street Landfill Site Erosion Control and Leachate Management project.

The new Chair of CEO was announced at the annual meeting. He is Geoff Pound, P.Eng. of Mitchell Pound & Braddock of Richmond Hill.

Magazine wins gold

Canadian Consulting Engineer magazine won a gold award at the 2004 Kenneth R. Wilson Canadian Business Press Awards held in Toronto. The award was for an article “The New Eccentrics” about the Ontario College of Art and Royal Ontario Museum expansions in Toronto. The article appeared in the December 2004 issue, written by the editor Bronwen Parsons. The magazine won a second “top five” award in the same category for its coverage of the Toronto Pearson International Airport expansion, entitled “Thinking Big.” The article appeared in August-September 2004 and was a compendium of pieces by different authors, including Mike Meschino, P.Eng. of Yolles, Bob Lymer, P.Eng. of Mulvey & Banani International, John Lowden, P.Eng. of the Mitchell Partnership and freelancer George Peer, P.Eng.

This is the second gold award in three years that the magazine has received in the national business press awards.


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