Lynden Oilfield Services' fleet of three PistenBully snowcats have been hard at work in Prudhoe Bay this past winter. In an average week, the cats delivered essential supplies to a remote drilling site 145 miles southwest of Deadhorse and hauled a propane truck to refill two remote tanks used to power a weather station. Operators Tony Warner, Joel Martens, James McSharry and Hunter Keogh operate the machines in severe conditions to serve Lynden customers. They received instruction in freight operations and survival as part of their preparation to operate the machines in extreme weather. The PistenBullys give Lynden customers over-snow options to move their cargo including heavy equipment, containers and camps.
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Rig 26, Doyon Drilling's new extended reach drilling (ERD) rig, completed its 2,400-mile journey from Nisku, Alberta to Alaska's North Slope this past winter. Lynden Transport, Alaska West Express and Lynden Oilfield Services teamed up to haul the 10.5-million-pound rig in pieces from Canada to Deadhorse where it was put back together after more than 320 separate truckloads arrived. Nicknamed "the beast," it is the largest land-based rig in North America and the first ERD rig ever built and moved in North America.
"This was one of the most high-profile projects Lynden has ever done and certainly the largest project that I have been involved in," says Paul Friese, Lynden Transport Vice President of Alaska Sales. "We started talking about this move four years ago, started planning a year ago and began the work in June 2019. In just six months we hauled over 320 loads. Our past work moving Rig 142 for Doyon set a high standard and gave them confidence in the Lynden team to handle this larger project. Many say the future of Alaska rides on the success of this new rig and technology, so we were under intense pressure and scrutiny to make sure the loads were delivered intact and on time for the reassembly in Deadhorse."
Rig 26 will have the capability to directional drill over 35,000 ft. (about 6.3 miles) from a single drilling pad on the North Slope. Doyon Drilling has been working for more than three years to build a larger powerful drilling rig, with increased capabilities greater than any other mobile land-based drilling rig on the continent. The new rig's extended reach can access production zones that were previously inaccessible with current drilling technology and capability.
"We want to thank the Lynden team," says Mike Lasher, Project Manager for Doyon Drilling in Anchorage. "Edmonton's Rick Stark oversaw every shipment loaded in Nisku, and Dan Rychlik helped with pre-planning and shipping requirements. Natasha Earl, Deanna Benson and Darren Stansbury and the Fairbanks team managed loads based on our priorities to ensure we received the right loads in the right sequence."
Rick also served as the Lynden project manager for Rig 142 and was instrumental in providing loading knowledge and experience along with James Delowsky. Rick and James loaded and moved most loads and transported them to the yard for staging and Cratex wrapping.
Lynden's Prudhoe Bay crew received and coordinated loads in Deadhorse around the clock to get the rig pieces where they needed to go, and the Edmonton team stepped up their game for the project. "This move impacted everyone from the shop to operations to the front office," says Canadian Lynden Transport General Manager Dan Rychlik. "Employees like Kent Maltais worked weekends; others postponed vacations. We even had to pull people from Calgary to help cover at times. I am extremely proud of the team effort here."
Alaska West Express, led by Steve Willford, planned and supervised the most challenging loads. Alaska West Express drivers and employees handle oversize and overweight loads to and within Alaska for all Lynden companies, and they were essential in delivering the awkward heavy hauls. Roughly 75 percent of the loads hauled were for the rig's subbase which consists of 525 items weighing a total of 1.7 million pounds. The Excel spreadsheet the Lynden team used for the move is a color-coded map of detailed dimensions on handrails, columns, wheel assemblies, platforms and other parts. Mike and other members of Doyon's team were set up on EZ Commerce, Lynden's reporting and tracking system, to help manage the transportation phase of the project and keep track of Lynden loads between Canada and the North Slope.
According to Paul, the heaviest and most unusual loads were the draw works, mud pumps, main beams, and engines for the rig. "When you consider that we had to move more than 300 loads that distance in six months during the winter ice road months with DOT road work and pilot car driver shortages, it's pretty impressive," he says. "We did all this while maintaining our current customer base with no impact to them while we took on this huge project. That is a testament to our dedicated operations team, drivers and mangers. I don't think there is any other company in Alaska that could've pulled this off in such a short time frame. We truly have the best team in the industry and this project proves it."
Watch the video below for a bird's eye view of Rig 26.
Lynden Oilfield Services equipment crossed tundra-covered public lands in Alaska this winter and spring to deliver critical infrastructure across the North Slope that couldn't wait until this summer's barging season.
Methanol, cement mixer trucks, front-end loaders, sheet steel and fire trucks were included in the remote deliveries. Time was limited as the tundra is closed to travel once the snow depth deteriorates. In the photo below a fire truck destined for the Barrow Airport is towed by a PistenBully pulling a sleigh across the North Slope Borough's Community Winter Access Trail. Air freight and other alternatives were not an option for most of the cargo due to weight and dimensional challenges.
"This season was the busiest yet for snow road projects, which meant many challenges for our team. With the hard work and innovative thinking of our crew we were able to pull it all off," says John Jansen, General Manager of Lynden Oilfield Services. The team moved more than a million pounds of freight on the North Slope this season using the PistenBully snow cats. These deliveries allowed for more efficient and newer housing in the community of Atqasuk and helped the village of Utqiaġvik repair and replace fuel storage areas. Unlike conventional trucks that move freight on roads with existing right-of-way and permits, the PistenBully snow cats must travel across property owned by a variety of entities at an average speed of 9 mph.
"We have to ask permission and/or obtain permits from all of the land owners before we can begin the work," says Tyler Bones, Director of HSSE for Alaska West Express. "The Lynden Oilfield Services team did an amazing job this year moving the freight that ranged from housing modules to a fire truck. We had a professional group of employees that made the long hours and challenges look easy."
The moves involve cooperation between Lynden companies and Alaska partners like the Bureau of Land Management, North Slope Borough and Alaska Department of Natural Resources. In all, Alaska West Express and Lynden Oilfield Services worked with 10 different local, state, and federal agencies and three native corporations this season.
"This was some of the largest and heaviest equipment ever moved by Lynden Air Cargo," says Charter Manager Dave Beach. Lynden assisted DeBeers and Priestly Demolition, Inc. in their Victor Mine decommission and remediation project by flying oversized equipment out of Timmins, Ontario, to remote sites in Canada to ease the burden on the winter ice road.
"It was a team effort due to the size and complexity of the cargo. It required multiple trips to assist in the preparation and two of our most experienced Loadmasters, Leo Lopez and Matt Hise, on the job during the 16-day project," Dave explains. "The flight crew was exceptional, completing flights in difficult fall weather conditions in northern Canada. This equipment was some of the largest we have hauled in this quantity to date. Normally there are one or two pieces required to a location. This was several pieces over 17 flights, with very little margin for error due the sheer size and weight."
Lynden has worked with DeBeers out of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories since 2006, but this is the first project outside of that yearly work. "Both DeBeers and Priestly Demolition expressed their admiration at the professionalism of Lynden's crews and operations department. "We will likely see much more work with both of these groups in the years to come," Dave says.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) asked Lynden to fly its L-382 aircraft to the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) to assist after violent clashes between two armed groups left many dead and injured. Over a two-week period, Lynden Air Cargo crews made 18 trips to deliver 600,000 pounds of food, shelter and vehicles to 25,000 displaced people in Birao.
"This work was very special as our crews volunteered to go and rallied to get it done while showing compassion for the humanitarian efforts going on in this region," explains Jim Davis, Vice President of Commercial Operations. "We received the initial request from the WFP to fly six trips in the C.A.R. which is a country in Africa that we had yet to operate in. Our aircraft based in Accra, Ghana, was ready to respond to the request." After the six trips, the WFP immediately requested 12 additional flights. This was not the normal cargo Lynden moves, but critical supplies going to a refugee camp so remote that very few aircraft types can operate on the runway.
"We have the best crews in the world, no question. This project gave us all a great sense of pride in what our company does around the world," Jim adds. "To see the hands-on efforts and genuine enthusiasm for the work the crew accomplished was heartwarming."
Most employees stayed well past their scheduled duty days to see the project completed despite weather delays that extended beyond the original departure date. "It truly was a humbling experience volunteering for this work," says Captain Kyle Zerkel.
"This crew embodies the Lynden Everyday Hero spirit in parts of the world we never imagined we would serve when we started the company over two decades ago," Jim says. "Thanks to the following employees for their efforts during this campaign: Aleksey Alekseyev, Bill Kenney, Philip Ansley, Kenny Horwood, Milton Beaver, Leso Tshimologo, Rock Molanga and Kyle Zerkel."
"We could tell that the Lynden Air Cargo pilots and ground staff were driven by the humanitarian cause. They were experienced with the challenging environment and their knowledge of the French language was a big plus in communicating with the local staff. Thank you for the excellent effort," says Sandra Legg, WFP Representative in Bangui, C.A.R.
Lynden Air Cargo completed another Hercules modification this summer, installing a "Short-POD APU" to enhance the reliability and performance of its aircraft. According to Lynden Air Cargo President Rick Zerkel, the size of the project required Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval.
"It took about a year and thousands of hours to take the military data and convert it to an FAA-approved package, conform the kits, convert an existing Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), modify the airframe, install and test, then compile and finalize over 1,000 pages of reports and manuals," Rick explains. The project required support from multiple groups inside and outside Lynden Air Cargo, such as the staff from the FAA Aircraft Certification Office, engineering representatives, personnel from Lockheed and Kellstrom Defense, KF Aerospace and Lynden Air Cargo's Quality control team, engineering, publications, maintenance and special projects.
The upgrade kit provides aircraft operators with increased reliability, quicker engine starts, and reduced maintenance and operating costs by replacing the out-of-production gas turbine compressor/air turbine motor with a modified APU that will help standardize the fleet with the other APU-equipped aircraft.
This oversized process module was on its way to an oilfield at Prudhoe Bay via Alaska West Express. The trip required crossing the Chatanika River Bridge on the Elliott Highway. "This is when our variety of equipment really pays off for our customers," explains John Binder, Alaska West Express Safety Specialist in Fairbanks. "The Scheuerle trailer allows us to raise and lower loads to clear just about any obstacle we might encounter." It was a smooth trip across the bridge and the mod arrived on time. Oversized loads like this require weeks and sometimes months of advance planning with the Alaska West Express team securing permits, insurance and additional personnel and pilot cars. "Dealing with unusual and heavy loads is our specialty," John says.
Imagine working 46 days each year in zero visibility. Now imagine being responsible for safely transporting people and freight in these conditions. For the professional mariners working on Lynden's Bering Marine hovercraft team, it's all part of the job. Five times each day, they load up the AP-188 hovercraft with 60 ENI Petroleum employees and safely transport them roundtrip from Prudhoe Bay to Spy Island, a drill site near Oliktok Point, AK. Six Bering Marine captains and deck hands support the project which also includes hauling freight for ENI and operating as a medivac standby vessel.
"Our ENI partnership is a highly successful operation," says Port Engineer Steve Isaacs. "Over the past decade we've made over 5,000 trips to the Spy Island drill site, carrying over 50,000 passengers and over 20 million pounds of freight. We've been able to prove the value and reliability of this type of vessel in this environment. It's hard to compete with a machine like our hovercrafts".
While the North Slope crew is hard at work in Prudhoe Bay, another three members of the hovercraft team are in Bethel delivering mail and essential freight to remote villages in the western part of Alaska. This service, which began in the 1990s, provides delivery to villages on the Kuskokwim River throughout the year. The winding river presents its own challenges with traffic from snow machines in the winter and boats in the summer.
Captain Paul "Duke" Bischoff spent 15 years in the Navy's hovercraft program before joining Lynden. "I really enjoy operating this type of craft because of the special challenges while maneuvering over land and ice, as well as the frequent high-wind situations we get in the arctic," he says. "Combined with the changing conditions at our landing site during the ice formation and breakup, you have an operation that definitely keeps you on your toes."
From September to February, the six members of the hovercraft team are the only mariners on the entire North Slope. "No other merchant marine works in the arctic that time of year," Steve explains. "Our hovercraft team serves as the medivac and lifeline for emergency situations in subzero temperatures."
A few years ago, the team started a spring cleanup program, using the unique capabilities of the hovercraft to pick up ice road debris during breakup. "Our hovercraft is the only vessel that can reach these areas during the spring thaw. We are doing our part to keep the arctic clean," Steve says.
Lynden Air Cargo is back in Papua New Guinea. "We are operating out of the capital city of Port Moresby and the city of Lae to support Exxon," says Captain Charlie Wallace. For the past several years, Lynden Air Cargo has been involved in Exxon's Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project to construct a gas plant and pipelines on the island. Lynden's Hercules aircraft are delivering heavyweight construction materials and other equipment. Charlie is pictured with Captain Eric Feige (far left) and Flight Engineer Bill Kenney (right). "This picture shows the flight crew with a local tribeswoman in full traditional garb," he says. "It's always exciting to be working in new locations and meeting local people."
Lynden’s specialized high-capacity equipment was one of the advantages Canadian Lynden Transport offered when the Supreme Group was looking for a company to haul structural steel beams from Alberta, Canada to Alaska. The Supreme Group is the largest privately-owned steel construction company in Canada with locations in Edmonton (Acheson), Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Vancouver and a U.S. location in Portland, OR. The company was awarded two U.S. military projects to supply the structural steel beams at Clear Air Force Station in Central Alaska and an airplane hangar at Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) in Fairbanks.
"Our equipment really sealed the deal as we can safely haul more weight," says Account Manager Sandra Darke. "We also have a mix of Canadian and U.S. drivers and, of course, Alaska is our turf and expertise. We have completed approximately 100 loads for the Clear project since September, including a few loads of nuts and bolts from suppliers in the Lower 48 up via QuickTrans." Materials for the hangar will require approximately 80 loads and construction should be completed by June. According to Sandra, the projects have presented several challenges.
"Our operations team has to communicate and coordinate with five different origin locations and we are required to spot trailers for loading in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and three locations in Edmonton," she says. "Our Edmonton team has done an amazing job keeping all the loads organized and meeting Supreme and the builder’s specific needs. The Lynden Transport team in Fairbanks has kept close contact with the builders to hold some loads and deliver as they need them."