Drilling work begins on Strait of Belle Isle

Gary
Gary Kean
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SHOAL BROOK EAST — Tonya White never thought she’d see the day.

The native of Forresters Point on the Northern Peninsula moved 25 kilometres away to Shoal Cove East around 15 years ago.

The talk in the area used to be of the aborted attempt to build an undersea tunnel at nearby Yankee Point — located between Flowers Cove and Savage Cove — for vehicles to travel beneath the Strait of Belle Isle to Labrador .

That idea has all but disappeared, but work recently commenced on drilling a tunnel that will link Newfoundland to Labrador via a transmission cable that will eventually deliver power from Muskrat Falls.

“I didn’t think we would ever see a drilling rig here in this small community with only 11 houses in it,” she said from her home, where she can see the construction activity.

Most of the talk around town now revolves around how long this project will last, especially since several local people have been hired to work on the drilling.

“There are a few people from around here getting work,” she said. “They are the ones who have been working the rigs for a lot of years in Alberta and B.C.

“I don’t know how long they will be working there, but I’m sure they are only glad they’ve got work here close to home.”

The plan is to drill three holes, for two transmission cables and one spare, on each side of the Straits.

The Newfoundland side will see 2,300 metres, drilled, with the Labrador side seeing 1,700 metres drilled, with the cable in between being laid on the ocean floor and protected by a berm.

After Forteau company C&T Enterprises completed the Shoal Cove East drill pad earlier this fall, an Alberta based company, Direct Horizontal Drilling, moved it to set the rig.

For protective measures, the company put in a drill mat, made of timber and steel, with a tarp underneath to protect the soil.

Basically, the mat levels the land space for the rig, and necessary operation containers.

The drill, which is mounted to a flatbed trailer, has been jacked up on a 12-degree angle to allow the drilling to take place. There will be changes in the trajectory, following the sea floor as the pipe extends down.

Greg Fleming, Marine Crossing Project Manager with Nalcor, is responsible for the Strait of Belle Isle.

Fleming said the process is called Horizontal Directional Drilling and Direct Horizontal Drilling is the company that owns the rig.

“Effectively it’s very much like an oil and gas rig, with all the same components, except it’s a little less powerful,” he said. “Everything we have in terms of the bits, drilling fluids and muds, directional controls is all same as we use in the offshore oil and gas industry.”

Fleming explained that each hole is being drilled 14 and three-quarter-inches, with a 10 and three-quarter-inch cable being placed inside. He said the first hole will be finished up before breaking for Christmas, and it will be another couple of weeks before the Newfoundland holes are completed.

From there the company will pack up and move the equipment to the Labrador side to get things operational.

Employment

In total there are 30 people employed on the Shoal Cove East site.

Twenty people with Direct Horizontal Drilling, the other 10 are support services.

Out of the 20 people for Direct, 18 are employed locally  from the Northern Peninsula.

“It’s really good to see that because we had sessions here back in October, and it was overwhelming turnouts, because we had a lot of qualified people from the Northern Peninsula turn out,” said Fleming.

Organizations: CT Enterprises, Strait of Belle Isle.Fleming

Geographic location: Labrador, Northern Peninsula, Shoal Cove East Belle Isle Forresters Point Alberta Yankee Point Flowers Cove Muskrat Falls B.C.

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  • JC Wellon
    December 17, 2013 - 19:44

    Only problem is the Hole is not big enough, Should be able to accommodate Vehicles!