Syncrude Managing Director Doreen Cole spoke at the first Chamber of Commerce Luncheon for 2019-20.
Despite the ‘tough journey’ Cole said Syncrude remains committed to delivering safe and reliable operation, and increased vibrancy for Wood Buffalo.
“We’re working together, the RMWB, industry, and stakeholders to look at improving the overall livability and vibrancy of the region, and continue to work together to building up all residents.”
She noted Syncrude is aware of the challenges facing the region, so constructive collaboration is key.
“Our recent turnaround efforts and discussions around taking a closer look at where people are being housed brought about even better ideas, so we’re going to strive towards continuous improvement in the future.”
Cole mentioned Mildred Lake Extension (MLX), which received approval from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), valued at $1.3 billion.
However, she disapproved of the AER’s process, which took seven years to complete.
Cole said the extension is just to maintain current production.
Therefore, she applauded the Alberta government for its review of the AER.
Cole added Syncrude would deliver safe and reliable operation and increase its local investment.
Meanwhile, Syncrude would assist the government as it seeks to improve Alberta’s market access.
As a board member for the Economic Development Corporation, Doreen Cole said she appreciates Syncrude’s commitments to the region.
Syncrude’s local procurement spending increased from 41 per cent in 2016 to 47 per cent in 2018.
Cole said Syncrude upped their spend in 2018 by $700-million to $1.8-billion.
Cole expressed Syncrude’s desire to work with stakeholders on maintaining and growing the local economy.
“Yes, we have seen some businesses shut down. However, we’ve also seen new businesses come about, so that’s what gives me tremendous optimism about this region because we always bounce back.”
One of Syncrude’s initiatives is to partner with skilled trades organization, Women Building Futures (WBF).
Cole announced a training program for 16 female-identifying workers applying with WBF for work in heavy trades.
Keeping their focus on skilled trades, she also announced the development of a shared worker program with Suncor.
During the turnaround period, Cole said a shared contractor workforce would improve safety and productivity.
Furthermore, she said the prospect of long-term work could increase the likelihood of out-of-region contractors calling the region home.
Cole said big and small incentives from housing to passes for amenities at Macdonald Island Park make a huge difference in that decision.
Mayor Don Scott, who attended the presentation, said he appreciates the optimism and concerted effort among the industry.
“I sat with Doreen [Cole] before the [presentation] began, and I asked her one question, which I ask a lot of industry leaders: ‘Are you feeling optimistic about the region and are you feeling optimistic generally?’ and she said ‘Absolutely’.”
Since they came to the region in 1964, Syncrude produced more than three billion barrels of crude oil.
Moreover, they planted at least 10 million trees on reclaimed land.
Doreen Cole said MLX should extend production for another 15 years.