Piling Canada

Drilling Piles in Northern B.C.

Heavy Metal Marine Ltd. has brought its 'out of the box' thinking to Port Edward's Modular Expansion of Wharf 417
Written by Paul Adair
July 2020

Heavy Metal Marine Ltd. has brought its ‘out of the box’ thinking to Port Edward’s Modular Expansion of Wharf 417

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada – Small Craft Harbours division manages and maintains many local harbours along the west coast of British Columbia. Over the past few years, they have focused on upgrading the Porpoise Harbour Marina Complex, located in Port Edward, B.C., approximately 15 kilometres southeast of Prince Rupert. This multi-phase project includes the construction of a 75-metre-long by 12-metre-wide, cast-in-place concrete wharf expansion to the existing Wharf 417.

Based out of Shawnigan Lake, on Vancouver Island, Heavy Metal Marine Ltd. was awarded the contract by Public Works and Government Services Canada in October 2019, to complete the next phase in the project, and in March completed Modular Wharf Expansion – Phase 1. This phase consisted of drilling steel piles, shoreline protection and the construction of a 12.5-metre cast-in-place concrete deck. The company was also involved with earlier phases of the harbour upgrades, including the demolition of the old wharf and earthwork upgrades to the site.

Founded in 2004 by life-long friends Brian Freethy and Ashly Williams, Heavy Metal Marine is a diverse marine construction contractor that is recognized up and down the coast of British Columbia for completing projects that will endure whatever the environment may throw against them.

The company offers a broad range of marine, land foundation and bridge construction services including pile driving, drilling, dredging, general marine towing and design-build projects. The company has also built a name for itself for specializing in medium and heavy fabrication for structures and equipment used in the marine industry. In addition, Heavy Metal Marine delivers a wide assortment of equipment and services for rent, including barges, tug services, drill packages, portable bridges and other heavy equipment. The company also offers drilling services, from drill packages to compressor rentals to qualified professionals from coast to coast to assist with planning and execution on drilling projects.

With more than 15 years of piling experience to back up its reputation, Heavy Metal Marine’s cranes and barges allow for mobile marine pile driving services, as well as the ability to work from either land or water. The company is able to install steel pipe piles, timber foundation piles and steel sheet piles, in addition to providing extensive pile extraction and drilling.

“Over the last seven years we have been doing a lot of down-hole drilling and caisson installation work, growing that side of our business and developing the technologies we’ve been using, while also doing some experimentation with new products,” said Freethy, owner of Heavy Metal Marine Ltd. “We beat out a local contractor up there by a very minor margin based on our adaptability to complete the job more efficiently and at a lower cost, instead of just sticking to the old ways of doing things.”

For the project, Heavy Metal Marine made use of a Terex 110-ton crane, a drill package developed in-house, three 1,170 cubic-feet-per-minute compressors, a CAT excavator and an ICE vibratory hammer, as well a number of other smaller pieces of equipment. All of the top-drive, drilling procedures – and much of the drill tooling – were internally developed and built by the company. The use of an 18-inch down-hole hammer and 24-inch ring bit (supplied by Mincon) allowed Heavy Metal Marine to reduce the amount of air flow and significantly sped up drill times.

“For the wharf project in Port Edward, we had to drill through anywhere between 10 to 15 metres of shot rock, overburden and into the rock underneath,” said Freethy. “The Mincon ring bits and hammer provided better air flow control and resulted in less sediment being pushed up from the hole. This gave us much better drilling efficiency through the overburden and into the rock, with no clogging whatsoever, and gave us really good flow through the reverse circulation drill.”

The 42 24-inch steel piles were an average length of 65 feet with a 5/8-inch wall. Most of the piles were drilled in the water and Heavy Metal Marine was able to install at a rate of approximately one pile per hour on production.

Many of the challenges encountered during the project were related to the working environment of the northern Pacific coastline. With tides cycling up to 25 feet each day, Heavy Metal Marine had to contend with very strong currents and, as a result, the company’s equipment would experience some shifting. So, rather than working from a barge, as would be normal for a project like this, Heavy Metal Marine chose to work from shore, which provided a more controlled and secure job site to work with, greatly improved production and helped with the accuracy the pile installations.

“We had to contend with drilling a 24-inch diameter pile through thick till overburden and into the rock underneath; it’s all unknown, you obviously can’t see underground and we were seating these piles two-and-a-half metres into solid bedrock,” said Freethy. “The logistics dictated that working from land instead of a barge would be more efficient for this project. Working from land made us more productive during the shifts and we were not as impacted by the ebb and flow of the tides, which ultimately improved our costs and made us more competitive.”

In addition to the tides, Heavy Metal Marine also had to endure the harsh northern West Coast weather throughout the winter months.

“You can get some ugly weather up there and it can be tough on the crew and rough on the equipment,” said Freethy. “Our team experienced a lot of wind, a lot of cold, a lot of rain and had days where things were frozen solid. But we have some really good people who work for us and, when we send them to these kinds of projects, they always deliver. It’s their work that makes us look good.”

Heavy Metal Marine strives to maintain an environmentally sound and safe work site, complying with all environmental laws and policies wherever the company is working.

The company drilled with reverse circulation so all drill cuttings and debris went back up the drill rod, where it could then be captured by a cyclone system and deposited into a spoil bin. The water was then filtered, cleaned and returned to the environment. Heavy Metal Marine also ensured all piles were isolated from the environment through the use of silt curtains.

“We were working right next to where live crabs were unloaded off the boats and stored, with water being drawn for that purpose coming directly from our work area,” said Freethy. “We needed to be exceptionally strict with our environmental controls during construction, keeping the turbidity on the water low so that we didn’t have any issues with contaminating the water that would impact the crabs.”

In addition to maintaining the water quality in the area, Heavy Metal Marine needed to be cognizant of any aquatic wildlife that might be in the water. To do this, Public Works enlisted Vancouver-based Balanced Environmental Services to monitor the noise generated by drilling during the project with a hydrophone to ensure nearby sea-life would be unaffected.

Heavy Metal Marine is committed to the task of establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. As such the company addresses unsafe situations in a timely and effective manner, and ensures that its equipment is maintained and certified to meet or exceed all WorkSafeBC requirements.

“We always strive to maintain a zero-accident work environment, which we were able to accomplish with this project,” said Freethy. “We finished ahead of schedule with no reportable incidents or environmental issues for the entirety of the project and, from that perspective alone, we feel that this was an extremely successful project for us.”

The response from the client on the work completed by Heavy Metal Marine to date has been very positive. All piles are well within tolerance and the project engineer has gone as far to say that the piles installed by the company have been some of the best drilled piles he has encountered. Public Works and Government Services Canada has provided excellent feedback on the project and are very satisfied with what Heavy Metal Marine has been able to achieve.

“We always aim to deliver a superior product that meets – or exceeds – the expectations of our customers, and it is always gratifying to hear that we were able to do just that,” said Freethy. “The response we receive is a reflection of our crew and of what we strive to deliver as a company. We are known for thinking outside of the box and that’s how we keep getting these types of projects.”  🍁

Category: Projects

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