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Atco bundles housing and related services at Fort McMurray camp

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by Stephen Dafoe

ATCO Structures & Logistics was recently awarded a contract with Husky Energy Inc. to build a 112-person permanent workforce housing lodge for the Sunrise Energy Project, located northeast of Fort McMurray.
Workers at the ATCO plant in Calgary, Alberta build modular housing units.
Workers at the ATCO plant in Calgary, Alberta build modular housing units.

ATCO Structures & Logistics was recently awarded a contract with Husky Energy Inc. to build a 112-person permanent workforce housing lodge for the Sunrise Energy Project, located northeast of Fort McMurray.

In addition to providing modular units for the oilsands project, ATCO has also been contracted to provide bundled site services for Sunrise, something relatively new in the energy sector.

Services will include cooking, janitorial, security, fire protection, roadway maintenance, preventative maintenance of on-site buildings, and waste management.

Craig Alloway, director of workforce housing for ATCO Structures & Logistics, said although providing bundling site services is relatively new to the commercial energy sector, it is in no way new to his company.

“ATCO has been providing this type of service, largely (for) overseas military, for quite some time,” he said.

“Only recently have we started doing it commercially, and of course now we’ve got some traction. We’ve got projects under our belt and some activity in the oilsands specifically.”

While ATCO will provide some services themselves, they will subcontract other services to local and First Nation companies. Providing complete service under one service provider is intended to save money and enable a more efficient flow of services.

“In the past it was common for all of those services to be broken up contract by contract, but it also leads to increased overhead for the customer and more points of contact, and ambiguity between roles and responsibilities of the contractors on site,” he said.

“Basically, anything that’s not related to the extraction of bitumen, we can do for them,.”

Alloway explained that companies are beginning to understand the value of concentrating on what they do best, leaving non-core aspects of their projects to other professionals.

“There is a real realization of energy companies that they’re really good at their core business, and at times they are challenged by aspects that aren’t in the core,” he said.

ATCO, with operations around the world and several in Canada, believe they are uniquely positioned to provide site services to large projects like Sunrise.

“We’ve got an overhead team and a management team set up that can manage that,” he explained.

He sees the marriage between camp accommodations and site services as a sensible one.

“It just makes a logical fit, when you have the structures, which would be non-core. Those are early-entrance products into the site, and it allows engagement at the very beginning of the project,” he said,

But, site services and projects are not the only thing maturing in the oilsands.

Lodging has evolved, too. ATCO is currently building 12 office and 52 dorm units with 112 beds at their main 200,000 square foot Calgary operation.

Each of the modular units are 12 foot by 60 foot and will ultimately be connected by corridors to a core building with kitchen facilities, dining room, weight and recreation rooms with big screen TVs, gaming equipment and pool tables.

“The industry has morphed over the last 10 years,” Alloway said.

He noted that modular camps have evolved from many workers sharing a common wash area to a Jack and Jill style, where two rooms share one washroom facility.

Ensuite units are the common trend today among many of the company’s clients, including Sunrise.

The arrangement of modular units has also changed over the years.

Alloway said it was once common to connect three modulars together end to end into a dorm unit and connect that combined unit to a corridor.

“Increasingly, the dorms are starting to become side by side in the sense there is a room at each end of the box with a corridor going through the middle of the box,” he said.

“It’s just recognizing, at the end of the day, that the end user is wanting a more urban experience, even though they are staying in a remote location.”

Alloway said the energy sector is experiencing a lot of growth and anticipates the need for another 20,000 beds in the oilsands alone in the next 18 months and double those figures across the country.

“The level of activity since the downturn has come back so fast that it might be a challenge to keep up with the demand in the short term,” he said.

The Sunrise project is a joint venture between Husky Energy and BP PLC. It is expected to produce 60,000 barrels of oil per day by 2014.

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