Kellogg Brown & Root (Canada) Company, with offices in Edmonton and Calgary, was founded in 1951. The Canadian branch of KBR, Inc. is part of one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the world. This means that, while KBR Canada has the strength to be a self-sufficient Canadian operation, it also has the backing of an extensive history of expertise in North America – executing major construction projects and providing construction management and module fabrication services.
KBR Canada has worked on almost every major energy and chemicals project in Alberta. Christian Brown, President of KBR Canada, explains that KBR has been involved in larger Canadian developments in oil and gas because the company has the major resource strands to support major projects.
KBR Canada is also able to provide fully integrated EPC services and differentiated downstream technology offerings, such as KBR ROSE™ technology, used by refineries and heavy oil upgraders worldwide. KBR Canada offers services in the following business segments: civil infrastructure, construction, operations and maintenance, consulting, downstream, government services, subsidiary operations, technology, upstream, and venture projects.
“We’ve touched all of the big projects in Canada in some way or another, including those done by Shell, Suncor, Petro-Canada and Syncrude” remarks Brown. He adds that “although the market has changed, we are backed by a solid reputation that enables our business to grow with the major oil and gas players.”
Just three years ago, KBR’s ROSE™ technology, a solvent deasphalting technology, was selected by Shell Canada Ltd. for use at its Scotford Upgrader in Alberta. The ROSE unit, part of Shell Canada’s Upgrader Expansion, is designed to deasphalt hydrocracked atmospheric residue. Deasphalted oil extracted by the ROSE process is low in sulfur, metals and Conradson carbon, and can either be further refined or blended directly into Shell’s synthetic crude product. Asphaltene from the ROSE unit can be either blended into fuel oil products or converted into solid pellets.
Canadian roots in an international economy
Brown, who has an extensive background in construction and engineering projects, has seen the fluctuation of many North American economic shifts. He says that the market for KBR has changed since 2005, and since then the company’s longevity and commitment to superb quality and safety have set them apart from other North American constr-uction conglomerates. “Although our parent company, KBR, Inc., is an American company, we are a Canadian business and employ Canadians. We’re very rooted in the Canadian marketplace.”
The Canadian enterprise has an important commitment to growing a Canadian labour force. “We employ 99 per cent of our craft labour staff from within Alberta, this is a high percentage in a hot western market, where often workers come from outside the province. We have attracted the best talent in Alberta – both at the craft labour and professional levels.” Brown adds that labour unions in Alberta have actively supported the company’s recruitment of local labour.
A diversified project base
Is Brown worried about the construction industry’s future, with the North American economy faltering the way it has? Not yet. “KBR’s baseload of business is strong and will take us well into the next few years. The production cycles for most of the projects we’re doing are 24-36 months.” KBR Canada has taken measures to ensure they are prepared to meet a different set of demands through varied projects. “We’ve diversified our business to take on more projects in oil and gas, such as primary separation and bitumen recovery. The projects have slightly different business cycles and capital constraints. However, the industry will always require, at the very least, that the oil is recovered from the ground, whether or not the market is in a negative state. No matter what, for oil companies to see revenues, they have to get the oil up – and that’s where we come in. We have our resources focused more and more in the extraction side of oil and gas.”
Brown says that the uncertainty of the Canadian market creates more fear in the industry than capital squeezes and credit crunches do. “What really unnerves anyone in the industry now is the unknown. But we will always safeguard ourselves and watch our expenditures – we look for sure ways to mitigate risk.”
Safety – the lifeblood of KBR
KBR is known in the industry as a safety-conscious organization, and Brown explains that creating a safe atmosphere is built into the company’s culture.
“Our global company has a safety culture that is essentially part of our DNA. Whether we’re in the oil sands or in the office, we are working safely, because that is heart of our business. We treat safety and our social commitments as part of the induction process when people come to work for KBR. We start with our training – helping new hires understand that safety is the lifeblood of our business.”
Brown says that KBR Canada promotes health in their operations the same way the company promotes safety. “Safety is a value, not just part of our business plan – so even if our workers are in the office, stretching before a long day, we encourage them to integrate healthy practices into their work day.”
He adds: “Of course it’s challenging, but safety is imperative for everyone here. As a country that is way ahead of other areas of the world for safety and health promotion, it’s easy to be a bit complacent – because we think we’re ahead of the game and we don’t need to be careful. But behavioural safety instead of instructional safety is the only way to go. Ultimately, it’s about shifting the behaviour of your workforce.”
Strong community relations – good for business
As a North American corporation, KBR has integrated a high level of corporate social responsibility into their business. In Canada, the company runs a program called “Community Matters”, a series of charity events that take place during a given month that raise money for the company’s chosen organization. These events are run by a social committee and often have raised $35,000-$40,000 for charities.
KBR, both nationally and internationally, believes that it is not only good business to be socially responsible but it also makes sense to give back to the communities in which KBR operates. The company only considers funding community organizations where KBR has a permanent office or project site presence.
“Our commitment to communities where we operate takes many forms. By working with community leaders, non-profits and community organizations, we support our focus areas through employee giving programs, employee involvement programs and corporate monetary and in-kind contributions, both philanthropic and employee matching.”
Brown maintains that although it might seem a stretch for some companies to be environmentally friendly, for KBR the commitment is automatic and natural. “In other countries, it is less important in culture to pay attention to the environment. However, there is a high premium put on sustainability in Canada, so watching our environmental impact is inherent in our business.”
An optimistic approach
Overall, KBR is well-positioned for future growth, even as the economy wavers. “We see the Canadian market as a very exciting and attractive business marketplace, a very robust market going forward. We are committed to our customers here. In order to stay competitive, we’ll continue to diversify project mix and grow our business. Our industry, I believe, is one of the bright spots in the country. A lot of leaders have to be cautious in such an unpredictable economy because they’re playing to the stock market and shareholders, but it’s very easy to focus on how difficult things are. Instead, we are focusing on being diversified and nimble.
We recognize that some projects will falter, but some will forge full speed ahead. And that’s where we’ll focus our energies.”