Keith Sashaw.

Billions of dollars of investment coming to the Northwest

There's a slight difference between the projects being proposed or constructed today versus the fourth quarter of 2012.

There’s a slight difference between the projects being proposed or constructed today versus the fourth quarter of 2012.

That difference is $48.2 billion dollars.

On March 17, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of British Columbia (ACEC-BC) released the B.C. Major Projects Inventory for the fourth quarter of 2013, a snapshot of the money being spent or proposed in the province.

The total being spent or considered in B.C. is just over $309 billion, with the North Coast leading the province in proposed spending. As of March 17, there is $101.8 billion being proposed. Add in what’s been started and projects on hold, $117.5 billion is staring down the region.

“This provides a good snapshot in terms of what the investment intentions are and an overview of projects that are arising and what’s happening on a macro scale,” explained Keith Sashaw, president and CEO of ACEC-BC.

“You can’t go into the details because it is broad and very general, but it does provide some really good indication of where the investment is and some of the implications for the province to move forward.”

As could be expected, it is natural resource development that is pushing the dollars in the region. That’s a change from the first decade of the 2000s when it was government and transportation projects that were driving spending. A lot of that came from development coinciding with the Winter Olympics in Whistler.

“What we’re seeing now is not so much investment on the public side of things but a lot of interest on the private sector in terms of investment, especially around the resource bases,” said Sashaw, noting the North Coast in particular is seeing a lot increases.

At nearly 40 per cent of the projected major project spending province-wide — including liquefied natural gas plants in Kitimat and Prince Rupert, an oil refinery and oil pipelines — the North Coast  is looking at more investment than any on region so far.

However, Sashaw points out all these numbers have the potential to change.

“That number would be on all of the LNG plants. As you know, there has been a whole number of suggestions and proposed LNG plants and the likelihood is not all of them will be going ahead. Nonetheless, it does show considerable interest and activity in the resource sector in that area.”

By region, Vancouver Island and the Coast region is seeing the second highest amount of spending, but only at $32.3 billion. The Northeast’s total proposed investment is $29.2 billion.

Province-wide, transportation and warehousing is the project category  taking up the majority of the estimated dollars. Oil and gas development is near the top at $46.4 billion while mining sits at $38.4 billion.

The inventory’s summary says the outlook for major project activity and investment in B.C. “remains optimistic with improving global economic growth expected gradually in 2014 and more forcefully thereafter”.

In a word, things will get heavier in 2014, but the economy will rise even faster in 2015 and beyond.

So what does this inventory of major BC projects do for the ACEC-BC?

“This provides a good indication to our members and to the public in terms of what the demand for engineering services will be in the future,” said Sashaw.

“When a company wants to build an LNG terminal or government wants to build hospital or road, they would engage the consulting engineering community, to undertake studies, environmental assessments and design the roads.”

Given all the proposed spending, he said they’re confident the human resources of engineers exists to meet the demands, but still says it’s a very good time to join the field if you’re a student.

“It does show for young people who have an interest in the science and technologies this would be an excellent career to be pursuing,” he said.

“We’re confident that our members can meet the demand.”