March 2015, Vol. 70, No. 3


Steady Work Ahead For PLCAC Members

Traci Read, Managing Editor

The Pipe Line Contractors Association of Canada (PLCAC) concluded 2014 on a high note according to outgoing president, Mike Prior, whose term ends in April. He said the association had a “busy year” and that pipeline contractor members had begun laying “significant groundwork” for future projects.

Prior added that PLCAC members can anticipate a healthy forecast in the Canadian pipeline industry for 2015 and 2016.

“We are forecasting a good year for distribution work with increased volumes as well as good years for maintenance and service work and mainline pipeline work which will remain above previous years although volume likely will be down from record levels achieved in 2013.”

Prior went on to explain that the decrease in volume can be attributed to delays in a number of major projects, such as the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, the TransCanada Keystone XL Project and projects slated for the western regions of Canada with liquefied natural gas (LNG) transmission facilities, as well as the completion of the Edmonton to Hardisty (E2H) Pipeline Project and The Inter Pipeline expansion.

When comparing the high levels of mainline construction accomplished in 2013 to the somewhat lower levels of 2014, Prior believes PLCAC members ended the year in a reasonably good position. Of particular note was Canada’s upturn in distribution, maintenance and service work, due in part to Enbridge’s Line 9 Reversal, ongoing maintenance performed by TransCanada and “mid-inch” work under the new agreement negotiated by the PLCAC.

Looking ahead, Prior noted there is a positive outlook for pipeline activity as “some delayed projects may receive a green light later this year which will boost activity in 2016 and beyond.”

However, he explains that these uncertain pipeline project schedules create a dilemma for members who need to retain a skilled construction labor force during a volatile economy. “We are also faced with the challenge of controlling costs in an industry that serves the oil and gas sector when oil prices are dropping,” Prior added. “This comes at a time when the Canadian dollar is falling dramatically – our equipment is made in the U.S. and other overseas locations – and expectations for labor are high in what could potentially remain an overheated market.”

Busy year

Representing contractors in labor relations matters and providing its members with training courses for the development of Canadian workers in special pipeline construction skills has been the main focus of the PLCAC since its inception in 1954. Throughout the years, the scope of the association has broadened to include occupational health and safety, legislative review, pipeline standards and codes and a multitude of other activities.

During 2014, PLCAC remained active in many areas to support and promote their members in the Canadian construction industry.

Prior reflected on the previous year as a rewarding experience and is proud of the association’s many accomplishments and proactive initiatives. He credits Neil Lane, PLCAC executive director, and the staff with the successful management of the association.

“I visited with sister associations around the world,” Prior said, “sharing information on the Canadian pipeline activity, our concerns and accomplishments, as well as learning about the work that is going on in North America and internationally. I am particularly proud of the ongoing progress made with the PLCAC training programs, safety video and the scholarship bursary awards as well as the level of trust that has been established between the PLCAC and our four Union Trades partners.”

Accomplishments included:
• Negotiated a Mid-Inch Pipeline Agreement that resulted in immediate work for contractors;
• Negotiated a three-year Maintenance and Service Agreement;
• Completed the Mainline Pipeline Camp Accommodation Standard;
• Initiated an owner-client meeting for all major upcoming pipeline projects that included: TransCanada Energy East, Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, Enbridge Line 9 Reversal, Kinder Morgan TransMountain Expansion, Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Program and Western LNG Pipelines;
• Attended and supported Community Town Hall meetings along the pipeline corridors for Northern Gateway and Energy East;
• Developed a two-day Pipeline Construction Foundations of Leadership Course that was rolled out to supervisors in February and March 2015;
• Developed the Pipeline Safety Field Level Hazard Awareness Video for release in 2015;
• Established a third-party review process for the PLCAC Scholarship Bursary Fund Awards to assist with administering the awards. This resulted in scholarships being awarded to 27 students; and
• Participated in various industry events and tradeshows to promote careers in pipeline construction.

PLCAC remained active in other areas as well.

“PLCAC contractor members and craft unions attended the Northern Gateway Pipelines Business Summit in Prince George, BC, in October 2014,” Prior said. “The Summit provided an opportunity for stakeholders to exchange information on the project and interact with various members of the First Nations Groups and local business leaders in attendance. Over 300 delegates attended the Summit which was well represented by PLCAC contractors and their union labor partners.

In addition, members participated at the Assembly of First Nations Circle of Trade event in Halifax, NS, in July 2014 and at a special Assembly of First Nations Chiefs Assembly held in Winnipeg, MB, in December 2014. Prior said, “Both events drew large audiences and assisted the association in reaching out to the First Nations communities across Canada with a focus on youth entering a career in pipeline construction.”

Industry veteran

As a registered Professional Engineer with 46 years of experience in the pipeline and construction industry, Prior joined the PLCAC board of directors in 2000 and previously served as its president for the 2007-08 term. He currently serves as senior strategic advisor for Michels Canada Co. of Nisku, Alberta.

Prior has served on several committees such as the Membership and Promotion Committee, Pipeline Canadian Standards Committee, the Mainline Negotiating Committee, the Maintenance and Service Agreement Negotiating Committee and the Pipeline Promotion Committee. He has been a member of the Canadian Pipeline Advisory Council (CPAC) since 2008.

Michels Canada, a subsidiary of Michels Corporation, Brownsville, WI, is an established underground utility construction contractor, leading the industry with innovative methods in horizontal directional drilling, tunneling and pipeline construction.

Pipe Line Contractors Association of Canada: (905) 847-9383,

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