Bechtel’s work on one of the largest hydroelectric projects in North America today harnesses the power of one of Canada’s great river systems
In 2014, the Bechtel-led BBE Hydro Constructors Limited Partnership began laying the groundwork for this new 695-megawatt powerhouse. As the centerpiece of the Keeyask Generation and Infrastructure Project, its seven turbine units will provide enough renewable energy to power 400,000 homes.
BBE is formed from Bechtel Canada in partnership with Montana-based Barnard Construction Company and Canadian contractor EllisDon. The Keeyask project involves massive cast-in-place concrete structures—chiefly a spillway and the powerhouse structure—totaling more than 345,000 cubic yards (330,000 cubic meters).
BBE’s work also includes about 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers) of earth-filled dams and 14 miles (23 kilometers) of earthen dikes. The consortium is currently constructing cofferdams that will be pumped out to create dry work areas for the powerhouse, the spillway, and other structures.
In the early 1990s, Bechtel delivered the 10-unit, 1,330-megawatt Limestone hydroelectric generating station on Manitoba’s powerful Nelson River under budget and ahead of schedule. This achievement is still recorded in Manitoba Hydro’s annals, and is now cited by the Partnership as a chief reason for selecting a Bechtel-led consortium to execute the Keeyask Project.
They (Bechtel) know the river, they know the area, and we expect that their experience with past projects in Manitoba’s north will be a real benefit to the joint-venture group. — Bruce Barrett, vice president of Manitoba Hydro, lead agency in the Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership.
A river runs through it
The Nelson, Canada’s fourth-longest river, runs 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometers) from Lake Winnipeg north to Hudson Bay, draining one of the largest watersheds in North America. Its elevation drop of 650 feet (198 meters) over 400 miles (644 kilometers)—and its enormous volume as the last leg in the Saskatchewan, Red, and Winnipeg River systems—make it ideal for hydropower generation. This past summer, the volume of water at Keeyask totaled some 212,000 cubic feet (6,003 cubic meters) per second—more than twice the flow of Niagara Falls.
In fact, three power stations on the lower Nelson downstream from Keeyask—Limestone being the largest—already supply about 75 percent of the province’s electricity.
Manitoba Hydro's construction update