For most engineers the
execution of a megaproject is principally about the calibre of those in charge
of management. Many don’t concern themselves with issues like water management, the question of whether it is a ‘political’ project, or whether the government has made a
premature sanction decision. Most simply want the construction phase to benefit
from the best practices of the industry and their profession. The Muskrat Falls project is proceeding poorly; even the Nalcor CEO has been forced to admit he can’t
guarantee either the schedule or the budget will be achieved. Imagine, therefore, that you
had a group of professionals weigh in on how they would “fix” the problem of “slippage”
and address fundamental cost and other issues. What
do you think they might they say? Recently, I had that
opportunity; some engineers are at their wits end over how the project is managed. It was not just a theoretical exercise; they are intimately familiar with the Muskrat Falls project.
On VOCM BackTalk with Pete Soucy yesterday, Nalcor VP Gill
Bennett, the regulator, examined Gill
Bennett the regulated and pronounced – risk of a North Spur Collapse during
construction ? - no problem! Does not exist !
And repeated that assertion at the end of his call supposedly
to really clinch the argument.
According to Bennett the risk of a North Spur collapse
during construction was , not – acceptable risk; not -low risk; not – negligible
risk;, but 100% pure –unadulterated NO RISK.
So go back to sleep people – no problem here.
All accompanied by a pious and disdainful statement on the superiority of the
engineering way of thinking and the high standards they hold themselves to –
what tripe !
Previous columns on this blog by JM have spoken about the 2015 budget and its optimistic assumptions with respect to future revenues. JM referred to comments by senior officials comparing the oil and gas developments off our coasts with those in the North Sea and the need to inject reality rather than euphoric fiction into our social and economic planning. Public debate and dialogue on the future of the province must be informed by realistic assumptions.
There have been a number of statements made by government and by Nalcor which promise unrealistic returns to the province from the Muskrat Falls project as well as from Nalcor’s investment in oil and gas. This article deals principally with the revenue prospects for Muskrat Falls and how they have been portrayed by our political leaders.
Guest Post written by "JM" The Muskrat Falls project is experiencing
Due to the size of this project,
the remoteness, and the complexity there should be no surprise that the ramp up
of the major activities are taking longer than proposed in Nalcor’s optimistic original
The delay has been documented in the oversight reports produced
by the provincial government, even if the reports continue to put the best
light on difficult position in which Nalcor finds itself.
Apollo reserves a
place, in both Greek and Roman mythology, as the god of music, art, beauty, light,
But there is nothing
artful, pleasant, or beautiful about the Apollo, the aged and ill-kept ferry so
named, plying the Straits of Belle Isle several times a day between St. Barbe
and Blanc Sablon.
As my vehicle crossed
over the dock into the vessel, I spied licence plates announcing Texas,
New Hampshire, Ontario, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. A little later, I was given to wonder what their owners were thinking.
seemed adequate enough at first, the walk from the car park through the doorway
onto several flights of stairs, leading to the reception area, gave even this
reluctant tourist fair warning that any expectation of relaxation
within pleasant, comfortable, clean, and modern surroundings, might be excessive.
recently started on Nalcor’s North Spur “stabilization” construction activities
at the Muskrat Falls Project. So far, this has involved the stripping of trees
on the upstream and downstream sides of the North Spur and the use of heavy
excavation equipment .
The North Spur
is known to be unstable and such activities can only heighten the risk of
As a result,
there is presently a serious risk for a North Spur collapse.
Oil has done many great things for Newfoundland and
Labrador. It has diversified our
economy, generated wealth, provided tremendous opportunities for our young
people, and given us a glimpse into a truly global industry. Oil has fundamentally changed this province,
the people, and our culture. We can
attribute to it a collective confidence on a level never conceived in the
pre-oil Newfoundland and Labrador.
But it can be argued that it has also incubated an undertone
of both arrogance and invincibility, a condition which has particularly plagued
our political leadership. It has led to
us to think, dream, and spend as if we had made the economic big leagues. From
the mammoth Muskrat Falls public works project to the 35% increase in
government spending, not once did we consider our exposure should oil prices
return to their historical (and far lower) valuations.