Fairweather builds Deadhorse Aviation Center

Courtesy of Fairweather, LLC

A dormant North Slope project has been reborn as a way to support oil and exploration companies faced with the area’s currently scant facilities. The Deadhorse Aviation Center is designed to be the area’s largest and most modern piece of infrastructure, and is expected to open this summer.

The 70,000-square-foot facility includes a 21,000-square-foot hangar joining two floors of various accommodations plus a mezzanine. The facility — owned by Fairweather, LLC, Offshore Support Services, LLC (an Edison Chouest company) and Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. — is to provide support and safety to both large oil companies and smaller operations that use this area of the North Slope.

The multi-modal facility is located on the north end of runway 5 of Deadhorse’s airport, one of the North Slope’s busiest.

“This will be, if not the, one of the newest pieces of infrastructure available for the industry in Deadhorse,” said Fairweather Manager Sherron Perry.

DAC will house a cargo and passenger terminal, offices, conference rooms, a medical facility and clinic, ambulance and medevac facilities, bedroom accommodations for 48 people, kitchen capacity for 60 people and secure areas for hazardous materials. There is also an adjacent 10.5-acre gravel yard for outside storage. High-speed Internet will be available there as well.

Fairweather’s medical personnel will operate the clinic. This will be Deadhorse’s largest medical facility, as well as the only privately owned one on the North Slope.

Fairweather Director of Business Development Lori Davey said companies that utilize this service will likely use the center’s other services as well.

Another feature that will be new to companies outside big oil will be the incident command center.

“This will provide smaller companies that don’t have a lot of infrastructure up there to be able to come into the secure environment and manage a spill or a leak or some other problematic issue that they need to set up an instant command structure to manage,” Perry said.

The hangar accommodates offshore helicopter capacity and fixed wing activities.

The design also calls for Deadhorse’s first heated jet ways. These won’t be constructed unless a contract is reached with an air carrier, however.

The project manager is Neil McCleary, who helped design the facility with Marvin Ungerecht of Architects Alaska. McCleary works for Fairweather.

The hangar is finished with the exception of the fire suppression system. Building is under way for the rest of the facility. Contracting work is being done through Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corp.’s construction services out of Barrow.

Perry said the total costs will be $35 million once the facility is completely finished.

The facility actually went into construction in 2006, when it was to be used to support Shell’s offshore operations. Construction was suspended shortly after Shell was unable to move offshore and had to abandon its leases in the summer of 2007.

“We believe the market is growing now and it’s time for us to lead this project,” Perry said. He said he believes offshore development will proceed this summer and has seen an increase wintertime exploration.

The center is using its original design as a shore base to support offshore drilling and exploration activities.

“A number of companies have seasonal work in the area,” he said. This includes government research projects such as those by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

DAC will be ready for occupancy in June 2012. The next step is to sign leasers. None are signed yet. Fairweather is talking with several prospects, including all the big oil companies and gasline companies with aviation components. Perry said there are discussions with aviation companies, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the U.S. Coast Guard, the Air Force and other government and private agencies.

The state Department of Transportation has identified a number of issues in current Deadhorse aviation facilities, including inadequate lighting, limited expansion possibilities and the need for runway surface rehabilitation. The survey also indicated current insufficient sizes for a flight service station, rescue and fire fighting, and now removal equipment.

The new DAC is intended to address several of these. It also accommodates Transportation Security Administration screening compliance, something that current Deadhorse facilities are too small to do. This design is based on TSA recommendations.

Fairweather has multiple specialty divisions, such as environmental science and medical subsets, which played a big role in the diversifying the new resources. Davey said an example of such advantages is that leasers will be able to get weather and ice reports from the building, something that is important to offshore drilling. She said Fairweather’s logistics support is also important to oil companies that may not know everything involved with drilling in the North Slope.

“It’s been important for gaining the support of all the different entities combined because we’re considered a third-party, non-biased entity doing the science,” Davey said.

01/19/2012 - 8:00am