Gas work
30 right-of-way jobs fuel project's initial phase

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Dec 18/98) - The road to the Ikhil gas project right-of-way tree-clearing crew is paved with rutted, sporadically-spaced ice holes punctuated by the remains of what once was brush.

An ice truck rumbles toward Inuvik, empty of the water used to even out the rough passage.

Work has begun on the $30 million, 50-kilometre long Ikhil natural gas pipeline to Inuvik. The Inuvialuit Petroleum Corporation, AltaGas Services Inc. and Enbridge Inc. are the three project partners.

"Digging into the ground won't start by the end of January," Inuvik gas project general manager Lyle Neis says.

Even so, right-of-way work contracted to the Tuktoyaktuk firm of E. Gruben Transport has netted about 30 area labour jobs.

Arctic Tire won the contract to perform tank work -- readying tanks for methanol and diesel.

When actual pipeline construction moves ahead in the new year, Cold Lake, Alta.'s Reid's Welding will hire workers. Though the exact number is not known, pipeline manager Shawn Reid estimates his company could create 15 jobs. The pipeline construction contract obligates Reid's Welding to give preference for all jobs to Inuvialuit, according to Inuvialuit Petroleum Corporation chair Russell Newmark.

"We plan on taking quite a few from down here who are qualified welders," Reid said from Cold Lake.

"But we will be hiring lots of local labour support."

Reid's excitement about the project stems in part from the hope that if it is successful, it will alert southern companies to the rich resources untapped in the Arctic Circle.

Reid's Welding has bought top-of-the-line specialized trenching equipment from Texas to dig the permafrost trench where the pipeline will lay.

Still, for Inuvik residents the key concern is economic. And questions such as "Will my capital investment pay off?" spring to many minds.

"We've been working with the GNWT to develop a new program where a home owner would only have to pay one third of the cost of their home heating appliance," Neis says of negotiations with the department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development.

"It could be up to $3,200 -- that's to convert for the heat input, a boiler or a furnace."

On a yearly basis Neis estimates a home-owner could recoup the cost in about three years.

And since Inuvik is more transient than many towns, Neis adds, "If I were moving to town and buying a house, I'd be more inclined to buy a house that's already converted to gas because that's going to put more money in my pocket."

Neis estimates the average heating-bill payer will save about 50 per cent in regular expenses.

Work on the distribution system is due to begin early next spring and Neis says he expects it to be in place for the fall heating season.