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Ledger Foundations has been doing deep foundation work for oil and gas projects - mostly in northern locations and under challenging conditions - for 10 years now

By Mark Halsall

Workers with Ledcor Foundations have been specializing in deep foundation work for oil and gas projects in northern Alberta and British Columbia since 2006. One of the things they’ve learned this past decade is that it takes a strong commitment to work in remote locations in the north.

“It’s tough on the people being away from home and in a work camp for 14 days straight. Not everybody wants to get out of bed, get on a plane and go to work for two weeks, and then only be back home for a week. It takes a commitment to work in this sector,” said Jerrod Dersch, operations manager for Ledcor Foundations.

Being cooped up in a work camp is even tougher when you’re dealing with a northern winter.

“The weather can be severe. It’s hard on the guys; it’s hard on the equipment. It’s just a really harsh environment,” said Dersch. Ledcor Foundations has carved out a reputation for being able to succeed despite challenging conditions. Dersch cites the company’s Cabin Gas Plant Phase 2 project, a large pile driving operation that took place in very remote area (about 100 kilometres north of Fort Nelson, B.C.) during the winter of 2011-12, as a good example.

The project included the supply, delivery and installation of 4,100 steel driven pile piles, which ranged in diameter from 168 to 406 millimetres (16.8 to 40.6 centimetres) and had varying lengths from nine to 15 metres. Ledcor completed the work for EnCana Corporation on budget and six weeks ahead of schedule.

“Crews took charter planes into Fort Nelson and then they were loaded into helicopters and choppered right into the project site,” said Dersch. “That project was, I won’t say as far north as you can get, but it was very remote, very isolated and very unique in that way.

“Logistics were a challenge because anything you need to get up there was multiple days away. So pre-planning and logistics management were key to the success,” he said.

Dersch recalls temperatures often dipping below -35 degrees Celsius, which complicated matters.

“Up north, you have to drill through the frost and heating drill shafts in the winter can be a bit of a challenge. And pouring concrete when it’s 30 degrees below is always a significant challenge,” he said.

Dersch describes the Ledcor Foundations workers for the Cabin Gas Plant project as a great group “that you could rely on, who could handle the difficult conditions…The team up there, they did a fantastic job.

“We have a lot of experience doing this,” said Dersch. “We are more than comfortable in that environment, for sure.”

Safety a priority
Contributing to that comfort is the company’s impeccable safety record. Dersch says that Ledcor Foundations has had zero recordable safety incidents in foundation work since 2011, which is a source of great pride.

“I think we have one of the best safety records around. How we do that is we have a good safety plan that we’ve developed over the years, and we have experienced supervision that is seasoned and has been with the company since inception,” he said. “We’ve developed a good workforce of quality people who buy into our safety program and make us successful. It’s all about our people.”

Ledcor Foundations is a division of the Ledcor Group of Companies, which was founded in 1947. Ledcor is employee owned and is led by chairman and CEO David Lede, son of company founder Bill Lede. Jeff Watt leads Ledcor Foundations as the president of Ledcor Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.

Ledcor Foundations has an office and two shops in Edmonton, Alta., as well as two laydown yards near Red Water, Alta., and in Fort MacKay, Alta. On average, 100 people are employed by the company but that can go as high as 200, says Dersch.

The company does the following deep foundation work: 

  • Drilled shafts/caissons
  • Driven piles
  • Sheet piles
  • Helical piles

Ledcor Foundations also does specialized retention structures, such as cofferdams and retaining walls, as well as excavation support.

Powerful pile driving hammer
The company’s equipment fleet includes what’s probably the largest land-based, hydraulic pile driving hammer based in Western Canada, according to Dersch. The hammer, which is mounted to a 200-tonne crawler crane, was recently used to drive piles at Suncor’s Fort Hills Oil Sands Project in Alberta.

The powerful hammer did an effective job of pounding in 3,000 open-ended, 30-inch diameter, steel piles for the project. “The advantage is we don’t have to switch hammers as often as we do using traditional driving methods. And it delivers high efficiency energy into the pile, which increases production,” said Dersch.

Ledcor Foundations was founded 10 years ago to do the deep foundation work for large capital projects undertaken by the Ledcor Group of Companies in the oil sands patch in northeast Alberta.

“The idea was to support our industrial operation up in the Fort McMurray oil sands. It was a vital piece for us for securing large contracts with the major oil sands players like Imperial Oil, Shell and Suncor, for builds up there. It’s worked out extremely well,” said Dersch.

Most of the work continues to be in northern Alberta and northeast British Columbia, primarily in the oil and gas sector, but the company’s also done deep foundation work for mining and infrastructure projects.

Dersch says the company is looking for opportunities in other markets as it moves to expand business beyond its oil and gas core. The Ledcor Group of Companies has its sights set on large-scale infrastructure projects that governments in Western Canada are planning to undertake in the next few years, and depending on the project, Ledcor Foundations will likely play an important role in successful bids.

“Where we come in and offer the most value is when we complete the whole project,” said Dersch. “What we bring as a specific deep foundation contractor is we understand more than just the foundations perspective – we understand what the critical path of the whole overall schedule and the overall project, which helps define the clients needs and better fulfill those needs.

“It’s very, very helpful and beneficial,” he said. “We’re going to be using the experience that we’ve developed over the last 10 years and our technical expertise in deep foundation solutions and applying that to some innovative design builds and techniques in the new industries.”

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.