Few projects go precisely to plan. But that didn’t stop the teams behind this year’s PMI Project of the Year finalists. Undaunted, they all found creative ways to follow through on project possibilities and promise.
One delivered a natural gas pipeline that stands to transform Europe’s energy landscape. Another resurrected a long-neglected Olympic structure. And a third made the most of a public-private partnership (PPP) to deliver electricity in a reliable and cost-effective manner.
Here’s a peek at the three finalists for 2020:
Fort McMurray West 500 kV Transmission Project Organizations: ATCO, Quanta Services and Alberta Electric System Operator Location: Alberta, Canada
Providing residents and businesses in the Canadian province of Alberta with reliable power is mission critical. But the project to build a 508-kilometer (316-mile) high-voltage transmission line from Wabamun to Fort McMurray delivered much more than a power boost. It also made the grid more efficient—and transmission more affordable.
The five-year, CA$1.57 billion project marked Canada’s first PPP for a transmission line, requiring strong collaboration among energy holding company ATCO, energy infrastructure firm Quanta Services, government leaders, Indigenous communities and landowners, and the province’s nonprofit energy operations manager, Alberta Electric System Operator.
From the start, the project’s site in northern Alberta posed some serious geological, weather and access challenges. With two-thirds of the line built atop a delicate peat bog, heavy construction vehicles could easily get stuck. So construction crews completed the bulk of the work over two sprints during months when the ground was frozen. To protect threatened woodland caribou, the team built the line along existing linear disturbances where possible so it wouldn’t destroy habitats or vegetation.
That attention to detail is “now setting a new standard for construction in Alberta,” says Paul Goguen, senior vice president, ATCO Group, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Project leaders also took an innovative approach to working with local stakeholders impacted by the project. They awarded CA$85 million in work to contractors from Indigenous communities with traditional territory near the line’s route—creating jobs and skills training while stimulating economic development. And as part of the sale of the completed line to private investors in 2019, seven Indigenous communities acquired a 40 percent ownership.
The Montréal Tower was supposed to make its grand debut at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. But it wasn’t quite ready for another decade. Over the next 30 years, the tower’s observation deck would become a roaring success with tourists—while the interior commercial space sat empty. Tearing it down became cost-prohibitive, but the building wouldn’t attract commercial customers without a massive renovation.
So complex owner and manager Olympics Installations Board launched a five-year, US$113 million project to create a modern space, with Canadian financial services giant Desjardins signing on as the first tenant.
Transforming the 165-meter-tall (541-foot-tall) tower—the world’s tallest inclined structure—required a bold, new kind of thinking. Extensive 3D modeling helped the team identify construction solutions that, at times, led to more than 350 workers from dozens of specialized contractors to be on site concurrently. One big design change: The team removed huge concrete panels from the facade and replaced them with a 5,000-square-meter (53,820 square feet) glass curtain wall. And through it all, project leaders had to ensure the throngs of tourists could continue to visit the tower’s observation deck.
Today, 80 percent of the building’s office space is occupied—with an estimated 95 percent satisfaction rate among people who work inside the reimagined interiors.
“This innovative project was a true social and economic catalyst and will have a positive impact on the surrounding community for years to come,” says Michel Labrecque, president and CEO, Olympics Installations Board. “Ultimately, it’s the community who will benefit the most.”
Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project Organization: TANAP Dogalgaz Iletim A.S. Location: Turkey
Many European countries depend on a single supplier for most or all of their natural gas—but one project could change that. The Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) is a 1,835-kilometer (1,140-mile) pipeline stretching across northern Turkey. Led by TANAP Dogalgaz Iletim A.S., it’s the longest stretch of the Southern Gas Corridor, a game-changing program of over 250 energy projects across seven countries that will transmit natural gas from the Caspian region to Europe for the first time.
The US$6.5 billion TANAP megaproject stretches over mountains and under bodies of water, including 19 kilometers (12 miles) beneath the Dardanelles. To help the team navigate the roller coaster domain, some 6,800 special crossings were constructed. Spanning the borders with Georgia and Greece, the pipeline winds through 20 provinces, 67 districts and 600 villages in Turkey.
Along the way, the team had to work around sensitive archeological sites—uncovering roughly 1,000 artifacts during the project. Amid so much complexity, project leaders worked closely with stakeholders to quickly identify and adapt to changes that could delay progress. And they provided incentives for contractors to safely reach key milestones early.
The team closed the project on time and US$5 billion under budget “to the highest quantity and safety, social and environmental standards,” says Mustafa Ayan, CTO, TANAP Natural Gas Transmission Co., Ankara, Turkey.
To make sure all that knowledge isn’t wasted, the team is creating a book of lessons learned that will not only help TANAP sponsors and stakeholders, but will be shared with the industry.
The winner is Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project
This year’s Project of the Year Award was announced on 20 October at PMI’s Virtual Event Series. Take a deep dive into each project in the November/December issue of PM Network® magazine. Plus, check out video case studies of each finalist on PMI’s YouTube channel.