On April 6, 2018, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau and Suncor CEO Steve Williams toured the Suncor Fort Hills facility near Fort McMurray. Located in the Athabasca region, Fort Hills is recognized as one of the best oil sands mining assets in the region.
To the crowd at Fort Hills, Trudeau said, “I am happy to be here at Suncor to highlight some of the incredible technological advancements that have been made over the past couple years, even since my last visit, that demonstrate people here in the oil sands understand that combination between both being more energy efficient, less polluting and [having] better places to work at the same time as we are growing the economy and contributing significantly to the well being not just of folks right her in Alberta, but people right across the country.”
Fort Hills is an oil sands mined by Suncor, with its joint venture partners Total E&P Canada and Teck Resources, began construction of the 194,000 barrels per day facility in 2013.
In January of 2018, Suncor, the largest integrated energy company in Canada, announced that the Fort Hills project is continuing its steady ramp up of production following the safe startup of secondary extraction on Jan. 27, 2018—an important milestone.
“With operations at Fort Hills now in continuous production, we’ve brought one of the best long-term growth projects in our industry into service and we’re now focused on the safe and steady ramp up through 2018,” Steve Williams, Suncor President and CEO said at the time. “Thanks to the hard work and diligence of our employees, contractors and joint venture partners, we were able to accomplish this safely and efficiently. Fort Hills will provide energy and employment and generate returns for decades.”
At peak construction, Fort Hills employed an average of 7,900 people. Now in operation, Fort Hills employs approximately 1,400 direct employees and the vast majority have been hired from Alberta.
The Fort Hills project was sanctioned by the Fort Hills partners in 2013. The project was designed in stages in order to level load resources through construction and development. This phased approach provided for a progressive turnover of assets to operations over time, avoiding a commissioning bottleneck in the final stages of the project, and enabling early testing of the Mine, Primary Extraction and Utilities facilities. The project has already completed five test runs of the plant, producing 1.4 million barrels of froth.
The second and third trains of secondary extraction are being insulated and expected to start up in the first half of 2018, as planned. Fort Hills remains on track to reach 90 per cent capacity by the end of 2018.
Suncor’s 2018 capital program will be focused on the efficient and effective ramp up at both of Suncor’s major growth projects, Fort Hills and Hebron, development of step-out offshore projects and improving the safety and reliability of the company’s operating assets.
“The value of our integrated model was front and centre this quarter as strong financial results from our downstream and offshore assets helped to offset the impact of lower Oil Sands production, and our refineries were able to fully capture the lost value associated with unfavourable heavy crude differentials at Oil Sands,” said Williams.
Investing for the future
As part of marking 50 years of Suncor’s oil sands operations in 2017, the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) announced a $3 million investment as a founding partner of the recently established Wood Buffalo Community Foundation (WBCF). The investment will help the WBCF continue their collaborative work with donors, grant committees and local charities to strengthen the community and enhance quality of life in the Wood Buffalo region.
“As a founding partner of WBCF, SEF worked with community members and organizations that saw the importance of diversifying funding in Wood Buffalo. We are committed to building a strong, resilient, sustainable and vibrant community now and for future generations,” said Paul Gardner, board chair, SEF. “WBCF, as a community builder, will play a key role in uniting, strengthening and promoting quality of life in the region.”
The $3 million includes a $1 million investment plus matching donations up to $500,000 per year for the next four years.
“We’re thrilled the Suncor Energy Foundation is one of our first founding partners. This generous gift puts us well on the path to achieving our $10 million fundraising target,” said Maureen Cormier Jackson, WBCF Chair. “Everyone in this region will benefit from this donation for generations to come. Unlike other charities in the region, we invest the donations we receive and provide grants to eligible community organizations using the interest earned from those investments. We call it ‘investing today for a stronger tomorrow’.”
The WBCF aims to provide long-term financial support for projects in the areas of social, health, environment, sport, arts, culture and other worthwhile community endeavors. A percentage of the invested income will be granted each year to qualified recipients. The Foundation was formally launched in Fort McMurray on June 8, 2017. The next phase of development is to build the endowment fund so the Foundation can begin granting to support community needs.
“As we look back over the 50 years that our company has operated in this area, we’re reminded of what it means to be part of building the community,” said Bruno Francoeur, regional operations executive, Suncor. “Both Suncor and Wood Buffalo have come a long way, and as we’ve expanded operations this community has grown and prospered with us. When we face challenges, we come together and support one another.”