Loading articles...

Suncor celebrates success of Fort Hills at grand opening

PHOTO. Two Komatsu heavy haulers seen in action at Suncor's Fort Hills mine. Melanie Walsh. REPORTER.

Suncor celebrated the grand opening of its Fort Hills mine on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 along with co-owners, Total E&P Canada Ltd., at 24.58 per cent, and Teck Resources Ltd. at 21.31 per cent.

Steve Williams, Suncor President and CEO told the crowd it was a day they’d been looking forward to for quite some time.

“This project from sanction, through construction right away through operating at its designed capacity has been over a decade in the making,” said Williams.

Suncor got the approval to construct the project in 2002 and first oil was not seen until Jan. 27, 2018.

Since then, things have ramped up and production in the second quarter of 2018 averaged at 131,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) with the expectation by the end of 2018 to be operating at 90 per cent capacity, which is 194,000 bpd.

“The energy we produce here from Fort Hills is going to contribute to Alberta and Canada’s prosperity for the next 50 years, and I expect it will be longer than that by the time we finish our business here,” said Williams.

At peak construction, the mine employed about 7,900 people and now there are 1,400 full time employees who were mostly hired from Alberta.

Williams dubbed Fort Hills as a new face for oil sands operations with the way it not only contributes to the energy and economy sector but also showcases innovation with technology and mutual beneficial relationship between Indigenous communities.

Oil from Fort Hills is transported to the East Tank Farm, which Suncor sold a 49 per cent interest to the Fort McKay and Mikisew Cree First Nations for $503-million.  The sale represents the most significant business partnership by the oilsands Industry and First Nations in Canada.

Ultimately Fort Hills is seen as the best oilsands mining asset in the region because of the Paraffinic Froth Treatment (PFT) process it uses to remove heavy hydrocarbon molecules in the extraction process which is much less carbon intensive because it doesn’t require upgrading before further refining and marketing and uses less diluent. Each barrel of product that comes out of the PFT process contains 75 per cent bitumen, 10 per cent asphaltenes and point five per cent of water and sediment with the remainder deposited back into the mine pit.

On the technology side, Fort Hills is on the forefront with the use of autonomous trucks that are seen as safer, improve performance and cheaper.

“Continuous improvement is what’s helped deliver this world class project and we have no doubt that’s going to be part of the mix as we go forward,” said Williams.

To join in on the celebrations, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, the Minister of Energy Marg McCuaig-Boyd and the Federal Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi were also in attendance.

Sohi told reporters that the best is yet to come for the Canadian oil sands industry.

“Look at the work that is being done, building this facility, creating thousands of jobs but also reducing the environment footprint of the oilsands development,” said Sohi.