Saskatchewan welding students stoked by Line 3 pipeline project right-of-way tour

Line 3 Replacement Program work near Loreburn opens youthful eyes to career possibilities

Thursday, Oct. 5 was a day 28 high school welding students from the Saskatchewan heartland will not soon forget.

After a mandatory safety orientation at an Enbridge construction field office near Outlook, students boarded a bus for an hour’s journey to their destination—Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline right-of-way near the village of Loreburn, about 120 kilometers south of Saskatoon, where work continues on the Line 3 Replacement Program (L3RP).

“Having the pipeline go through our area this year, I thought: ‘Here’s a perfect opportunity to see something these kids probably won’t get another chance to see, unless they end up working in the industry one day,’ ” says Keith Theoret, welding instructor at Outlook High School. “When I asked if any of them were interested in seeing the pipeline up close, every single hand went up.”

One of the largest private infrastructure projects that Canada has seen, the L3RP—with a cost of $5.3 billion north of the border—will replace about 1,660 kilometres’ worth of existing pipe, from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, with modern pipe materials using modern construction methods.

Theoret had previously reached out to Enbridge to pitch the idea of the student tour and was met with an enthusiastic response from Enbridge and its primary contractor in the Outlook area, SA Energy Group.

The students “asked a lot of great questions,” says Ferlin Koma, a Senior Construction Specialist with Enbridge’s Major Projects group, “and were engaged and intrigued by the different aspects of pipeline construction we were able to demonstrate for them.”

The L3RP will improve reliability and safety of the system, restore the pipeline to its original operating capacity, and promote responsible energy development—with much-needed incremental capacity to support Canadian crude oil production growth, as well as U.S. and Canadian refinery demand.

Students witnessed how the pipe is carefully aligned and prepped for welding. They also saw automated “gooseneck” and “bug” machines (which weld the inside and outside of the joint) in action, as well as an ultrasonic weld inspector.

“The kids were blown away with how many people were working in that one area, aligning the pipe, running the boom, the excavators, the ultrasonic tester,” says Theoret. “Students can have the perception that as a welder, you go into your little booth and weld for eight, 10, 12 hours a day and then you go home. . . . I think (this right-of-way tour) opened their eyes and gave them a different perspective on what a welding job or a welding career could look like.”

The students also learned from talking to welders on the construction crew.

“The guys were really good with them and gave them a lot of good advice,” says Theoret. “The guys working on the line were more than happy to say that working on the pipeline was the place to be—they enjoyed the work out there far better than being in their home shops.”

Students were allowed to keep the personal protective equipment they’d received at the outset of the tour—hard hats, steel-toed boots, safety vests and glasses—as well as Enbridge ball caps, tape measures and safety kits.

“These students represent our future workforce,” says Enbridge’s Koma. “We want to treat them well.”

(TOP PHOTO: Welding students from Outlook, SK, High School recently visited an L3RP pipeline work site near Loreburn, Saskatchewan, where they saw pipeline preparation, interior and exterior welding, and weld inspections performed by representatives of Enbridge and SA Energy Group.)