Britco’s $100-million contract to supply worker housing to an Alberta oilsands project represents just a fraction of future benefits Penticton will realize from the energy sector, Premier Christy Clark said during a visit Friday.
The deal calls for the company to supply modular buildings containing 1,600 bedrooms and related facilities to a Devon Energy site near Conklin, about 150 kilometres south of Fort McMurray.
Clark, whose tour of Britco’s manufacturing plant coincided with an announcement of the new contract, said a made-in-B.C. liquefied natural gas industry aimed at supplying Asian markets will soon produce oilsands-like economic spin-offs of its own.
“Once those pipelines are starting to be built, we’re going to have to have temporary housing along the way, so what Britco is doing here is, I think, just going to explode. They’re going to be a very busy company,” she said.
Clark and the B.C. Liberals campaigned this spring on an election platform that predicted LNG pipelines, processing plants and shipping terminals would generate 75,000 permanent jobs and royalties to build a $100-billion fund that would help pay off the provincial debt within 15 years.
None of that infrastructure is built yet and natural gas prices are in the doldrums, but Clark said that’s precisely why LNG holds such promise.
“The price for natural gas in Asia is much higher than it is here, so that’s how we’re going to pay off our provincial debt,” she said, “because we’re going to be making more money on our natural gas exporting it than we would by selling it here.”
The B.C. government has pledged to have three LNG facilities up and running by 2020.
Britco president Mike Ridley said his company is “very optimistic and very bullish on LNG.”
“A big part of our business is derived from the energy sector,” he added.
The company has 175 workers at its plant in Penticton and another 200 at a facility in Agassiz. The two sites will join forces on the Devon Energy job.
“In terms of workforce accommodation, I would equate it to a three-star hotel. It is going to be the best camp, the best workforce accommodation in all of North America,” Ridley said.
“Everybody has their own private bathroom, they have big, spacious rooms, they have flat-screen TVs, they have Internet, full (recreation) facilities and all the amenities that go with that.”
Ridley expects it will take until the end of 2015 to fill the order, which will comprise 900 truckloads to the site.
An executive from Devon Energy said the company contracted Britco to supply an 800-bunk camp for a different project several years ago and was pleased with the result.
“It’s a good partnership, because we’re in the oilsands and they’re building projects for the oilsands and those benefits are now flowing back here, and they’re not shy about saying that,” said Nadine Barber, vice-president of government and public affairs.
“That’s really important to us.”