In energy, to the north and south

Enermax makes big tanks, latest bound for north of Fort Nelson

Colin Sullivan and Charles Humphrey are shipping out huge tank to northern B.C. from Enermax building in Maple Meadows Business Park.

Some time next week, it’s going to roll out of its 20,000-sq.-foot  birthplace in Maple Meadows Business Park and start a long journey north and take its place in B.C.’s energy infrastructure.

The 161,000-litre vessel is one of the two largest fabricated at Enermax Mountain Manufacturing, in a pleasant location that seems to have nothing to do with the oil and gas business that’s buzzing far away in northern B.C. and Alberta.

The vessel is one of 19 that Enermax is making for EnCana’s Cabin gas plant 60 kilometres northeast of Fort Nelson.

It’s about 16 metres long and weighs in at 55 tonnes, the heaviest ever made at the shop on Kingston Street.

Fill it full of water, which the company did to test its strength, and the monster tops 220 tonnes.

The carbon steel container, wrapped in shiny insulation to withstand the bone-chilling winters, will make it hard to miss, resembling a giant aluminum water bottle carried by a low-bed truck on a four-five day odyssey to northern B.C.

Getting the first tank out of the shop presented its own challenge. A big chunk of a neighbouring business’s fence had to be removed to get the tank on to the truck and on to the road.

The tank is actually a flare knock-out drum, explained company vice-president Charles Humphrey.

The tank removes water from the waste gases, basically hydrogen, before the hydrogen is burned off at a flare stack.

Energy policy is now grabbing headlines, with some  pointing out that more oil and gas processing should be done in Canada, creating local refining jobs.

Humphrey, though, is one who’s backing the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline across northern B.C. for shipping oil to Asia.

Crude oil is safer to transport than more refined products, he points out. And refining the product at its destination allows more tailored use of the product.

If an oil spill happens, crude’s also easier to clean up and doesn’t spread as quickly as lighter products. “The big trouble with crude is when it washes ashore.”

But he also favours developing the liquified natural gas industry, which does require local processing. “In that sense, it’s good for us.

“We have to be able to export these natural resources in order to be profitable as a country.”

Enermax, which employs about 35, has been in its Maple Ridge location since 2010, after relocating from North Vancouver.

It was formed in that year after the amalgamation of Enermax Fabricators and Mountain Manufacturing from North Vancouver.

In addition to making vessels for the energy industry, including refineries in the U.S., Enermax also design, and make, hot water tanks for institutions, condensers, vaporizers, kettles, liquor heaters and coolers, high-pressure gas heaters, effluent coolers and immersion heaters.

One project involved replacing worn out parts in a municipal waste incinerator in St. Petersburg, Fla., says its website.

“Once engineering calculations were completed, our technicians began fabrication. When all the new components were to specification, we shipped them back to the municipal waste incinerator, where local contractors found that the new parts fit perfectly.”

The facility was back up within a month, it says.

“We’re the amalgamation of a machine shop and a fabricator,” explains accounts manager Colin Sullivan.

Hiring skilled people can be a challenge, he admits, because when the energy sector gets busy, firms are all chasing the same labour pool.

Much of the company’s business is located in the U.S., such as refineries in Washington state.

Sullivan says the oil and gas industry comprise 70 per cent of its business, while pulp and paper mills and institutional clients, make up the balance.

Energy, though, has its ups and downs.

The prices of oil and natural gas dictate what projects make economic sense, which can play havoc with projections.

Currently, oil is worth about $85 a barrel, below past prices of more than $100.

So far, though, the downturn hasn’t hit Enermax.

The move to Maple Ridge has been a good one for the company, he adds.

The location near Golden Ears Way and the Golden Ears Bridge, with its direct access to the U.S. border, is a big help.

“Fantastic,” Sullivan says.

“With the Golden Ears Bridge, it makes it really central.”

Sullivan says the company wants to keep growing.

“We’d love to keep growing.

“This facility’s larger, for both companies under one roof.

“There’s a lot of area around us to expand if need be.

“Certainly we’d be looking to expand as the business grows.”

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