They have entered the backstretch, heading for the clubhouse turn and should be heading for home and the finish line next spring.
In other words, the Boundary Dam Unit 3 (BD3) project is just slightly past the halfway mark with no major problems seen or unseen ahead of it. That means a clear track all the way to the finish.
Gary Cooper, construction manager for SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal-based major international contractors charged with overseeing this huge $1.24 billion project, explained that the heat rejection portion ... the cooling tower and pumphouse are being constructed now, about one kilometre south of the main housing located on SaskPower property right behind Boundary Dam Power Station. He said the foundation work has been started on, while the internal details on the 144-foot stripper vessel on the Boundary Dam site are also coming together nicely and according to plan.
The stripper will be taking the carbon dioxide out of the process fluids, and the absorber towers, which reach 104 feet up, nearly matching the CO2 stripper unit, are in place and will remove the sulphur dioxide which will be stored and sold as will the CO2, which can be used as an agent for enhanced oil recovery in the nearby patch.
"On the personnel side, everything is moving along OK considering the fact that this is a very busy city. We have had a lot of workers, both union and non-union, with travel cards coming to us from everywhere in the country. They're arriving as we need them," said Cooper. "If we need to, we'll draw talent from outside of the country, but so far we haven't had to do any, or much of that."
The current labour count on the BD3 site is between 225 and 270, he said.
"At the main building, the focus is on piping and electrical right now. The carpenters and labourers are doing the form work and concrete pouring on the compressor facility."
Cooper added that although this was another wet spring in southeast Saskatchewan, conditions haven't been nearly as challenging as they were last year as the workforce and management had to contend with major flooding that even made access to the site a real problem.
The parking and construction trailer configurations have been sorted out now, making it easier on everyone.
Cooper said the project has enjoyed a very good safety record to date and they celebrated that with a special "safety barbecue" on the site last week with over 250 people attending to accept this gesture of thanks from the company for adhering to safety guidelines.
"We continue to have a good working relationship with the sub-contractors and SaskPower and I expect we should be able to complete our end of the contract by the end of May or sometime into June of 2013," Cooper added.
"SaskPower will then do their major work in preparing Unit 3 for the hookup. That will involve duct work and so on, but that will be their project. They have their engineers and inspectors working on it now and they have been monitoring our end of it all along, and that's great because there won't be any surprises for them," he said.
Robert Watson, president and CEO of SaskPower, said during a media conference last week the company he represents will be spending up to $365 million in 2013 on the project.
The huge undertaking absorbs 40 acres or more including the heat rejection unit site.
"We're doing our job and the sub-contractors are coming in as needed and doing their work. It's coming along," Cooper said, adding that near ideal weather conditions of late have made the work even easier.
Watson noted during the media conference that once BD3 is completed and online in 2014, SaskPower will want to operate the system and test the technology and economics associated with the CO2 capture project on the 110 megawatt No. 3 unit for a couple of years. If the numbers work, then the corporation will plan a carbon capture project for Units 4 and 5 near the end of their current 10-year planning cycle. He said that if the BD3 project goes as planned, the second and third units to have carbon capture units applied, will probably be less costly due to efficiencies that will have been recognized through this original project at Unit 3.
The BD3 clean coal plant will be the first one in the world of a significant commercial size and scope.