SMJV: Celebrating Over Half a Decade of World-Class Infrastructure Collaboration

Coming together

A testament to the power of collaboration, Surerus Murphy Joint Venture (SMJV) has been delivering world-class infrastructure for more than half a decade now. One of Canada’s largest integrated joint ventures, SMJV benefits from the shared capabilities and expertise of Surerus Pipeline Inc and J Murphy & Sons Ltd – two organizations with over 100 years’ experience in providing innovative solutions to challenging projects in the oil and gas industry. Reinforced by a strong set of values, including Trust, Integrity, Assured Delivery and Never Harm, SMJV’s progressive yearly growth has seen the firm perform some of the largest modern oil and gas projects in Canada.

“Over the last 12 months, we’ve completed and commenced a number of major projects,” reports SMJV President Mick Fitzpatrick. “When we were last featured in Energy, Oil & Gas in 2019, we were in the midst of the North Montney Mainline Project, which has since been completed and delivered for TC Energy. We had some challenges to overcome, but we have an excellent safety record and it turned out to be a highly successful project for both us and the client.”

Following completion of the North Montney Mainline Project, SMJV was contracted to build segments of the Coastal GasLink Project – a multi-billion-dollar, 670-kilometer development that ranks among Canada’s largest. At the same time, the firm was selected by Kinder Morgan Canada as one of six contractors for the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain Expansion Project. More than 980 kilometers in length, the pipeline is designed to transport crude oil from Edmonton in Alberta to Burnaby in British Columbia.

“The Trans Mountain Expansion award was brilliant news for our business,” Mick notes. “We have vast experience in this field and have worked on pipelines across Canada, so we understand how important this expansion is for the country. The new pipeline will benefit people across Canada and we have enjoyed being part of such an important development.”

Technology investments
As Mick suggests, SMJV continues to win major projects in Canada from some of the oil and gas industry’s most prominent organizations. The trust that these large clients place in the firm is, in large part, due to its skilled and experienced workforce.

“I feel very lucky to have been able to attract some of the best people in the industry to this business, and we’ve been able to retain them as well,” Mick states. “In short, success is all about getting the right people working on our projects. We’ve always done that, and as a result, we now have a strong following across the sector.

“We’ve certainly been very busy of late, but we think that 2021 has the potential to be even busier,” he continues. “We really think it could be one of our busiest years yet. We’ve already been awarded a number of new projects in Alberta, so we are set to have over 1500 personnel in the field.”

To support its workforce, SMJV has made significant investments in technology over the past two years. With the support of the firm’s owners, the business acquired new standard comand specialist equipment, with a particular focus on introducing innovative practices to help increase efficiency.

“Our owners have helped us introduce new methods of welding for better efficiency, and we have done lots of R&D in that space,” Mick reveals. “Thanks to the new equipment, we have been getting higher quality, welding is a lot quicker and easier, and it makes for a far more palatable environment for a lot of our staff.”

Clever innovations
As of 2021, SMJV boasts one of the largest collections of specialist steep slope equipment including static and mobile winches and associated safety equipment in Canada, allowing the company to perform highly technical and challenging work on steep slopes. These physical engineering capabilities are supplemented by market-leading digital solutions, such as 3D modelling and drone usage.

“We do a lot of our own light air drone flying for data collection purposes, before mapping that in 3D modelling and presenting it to clients,” Mick declares. “It means that, using virtual reality, clients can see what a project will look like before its built. This not only creates accurate data and makes construction more efficient, but it also gives everyone a good understanding of what challenges might occur and how they can be addressed at the earliest juncture.

“I think a lot of the clients we attract can see we are making an effort to move things forward and make things easier for our people in the field,” he adds. “We solve challenges for our clients by offering them something different. We are a family business that remains independent and nimble enough to move forward with certain processes.”

Although SMJV performed well throughout 2020, the company still felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The essential nature of the company’s work meant it was able to continue its infield works, supported through the implementation of a host of measures to ensure its employees remained safe and healthy whilst on-site.

“It certainly was a challenge, but we managed to put a range of measures in place, and worked closely with the health authorities to ensure the business was as safe as possible,” Mick explains. “One clever innovation was the use of thermal imaging. Rather than doing individual temperature checks every day for 1000 people, we had employees walk through thermal imaging screening areas, which vastly sped up the process.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, one of our concerns was that our corporate staff might inadvertently take Covid-19 to one of our remote worksites during a visit. Consequently, we purchased our own testing capabilities to be used in-house whenever corporate staff needed to access one of our worksites. It was another successful process that protected staff and secured the health of the business in a difficult year.”

Growth goals
When it comes to the future, SMJV’s immediate focus is to finish work on the ongoing Coastal GasLink Project and Trans Mountain Expansion Project – both of which have completion dates set for the winter of 2022. Elsewhere, with a significant backlog of pipeline work already building, the firm is certain to receive numerous additional offers for its services before 2023.

In the longer term, SMJV hopes to expand its delivery footprint into new markets. “Our pipeline expertise has the potential for utilization across the entire oil and gas industry,” Mick asserts. “We have a good offering and we’ve built a team that can take us to the very top.”

Perhaps the newest key team member at SMJV is Mark Atchison, who joined the firm in April 2021 as its Operations Director for Infrastructure. As the organization looks to develop its offering in the wider oil and gas world, Mark will be tasked with overseeing infrastructure, facility work, and above-ground piping.

“An important focus going forward will be lineal pipelines,” Mick points out. “We feel we can add value by broadening our offering into that space, where it could lead to energy transition opportunities – an area we think holds a great deal of promise for the future.”

Of all the energy transition opportunities to which SMJV could potentially lend its skillset, carbon capture and hydrogen pipelines are the two areas that may be of most interest to the company in the near future. As the transition to more sustainable energy sources gains pace, Mick is confident that SMJV is well-placed to take advantage of the shift.

“Our goal of growing into new markets is only going to be aided by the energy transition,” he affirms. “The experience we have in oil and gas will play a massive role in helping our current and new energy clients over the coming years. The future of cleaner energy across all geographies is very bright. Hydrogen and carbon capture will require infrastructure and pipeline facilities work, and companies like SMJV are perfectly positioned to carry that out. Our goal is to leverage all the good things we do and use them for that new sustainability challenge – sharing learnings and opportunities along the way.”

Surerus Murphy Joint Venture
Services: Pipeline construction, installations, facilities and fabrication