Line 3 Replacement Program is a ‘game-changer’ for pipeliners on the prairies

In Canada, $5.3-billion project will bring a bounty of benefits, says IUOE Local 870 executive

Pipeline construction is a wayfaring way of life.

But the welcome mat is also rolled out for pipeliners in nearly every town. Just ask Cory Cowley.

“Pipeliners will spend months at a time in one community, and these communities take them in as a home,” says Cowley, business manager with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 870, based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“In my own career in pipelining, I would end up in small towns like Kerrobert. I ended up calling Kerrobert my home for seven years—working for Enbridge itself, running the trackhoe and working on their maintenance programs,” he adds. “Kerrobert was my home. I met almost everyone in the town eventually . . . it was a great experience.”

In early August, construction kicked off on Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Program in parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan. With a targeted completion date of 2019, the Line 3 Replacement Program will fully replace 1,660 kilometres (1,031 miles) of Line 3—one of the primary conduits in our Mainline crude oil network—between Hardisty, Alberta and Superior, Wisconsin.

In Canada, the $5.3-billion project will create thousands of jobs, generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, and contribute billions to the Canadian gross domestic product (GDP).

The L3RP, the largest project in Enbridge history, will create an estimated 24,493 temporary full-time equivalent jobs during the construction phase.

Members of IUOE Local 870, as well as other chapters of the union, stand to benefit—including those who operate trackhoes, dozers, loaders, graders, and cranes.

“This project will benefit (IUOE) members phenomenally. I have a lot of members who’ve been very excited for this project to get underway,” says Cowley. “We’ll be pulling from the province of Saskatchewan, from surrounding communities, and we’re keying up with Aboriginal groups (through Enbridge’s L3R Training-to-Employment program) to bring them into the industry.

“So this is a huge, huge project for us. For some of my members, this is a game-changer. They’re at a point where work opportunities are really low, and this project will be able to put food on their tables,” he adds. “The amount of calls that we’re getting not just from my membership, but across Canada . . . some of them are facing dire times, they need work, and they’re phoning in.”

As for those host communities, there are also procurement opportunities, notes Cowley, with the arrival of hundreds of pipeliners for months at a time stimulating local economies.

“Just from a lodging angle, every town surrounding (the right-of-way) for hundreds of kilometres in each direction will absorb these people,” he says. “There’s extra finances to each town for anything from food and accommodation to fuel and laundry services.

“You name it . . . it just goes on and on and on.”