Mission accomplished for the Edmonton refinery

As one of the critical path projects in the Suncor Edmonton Refinery 2018 Turnaround, the removal of the existing 987,000 pound (448,000 kilogram) Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU) regenerator vessel involved months of planning and engineering analysis to ensure a safe and efficient execution.

Getting ready for any major event requires an incredible amount of planning: making sure you have the right people attending who are trained for the event; logistics that include materials, transportation, food, parking spots (and bathrooms); making sure that everything proceeds on time and on schedule and everyone going home safely at the end of the day. 

After many, many months of planning, the Suncor Edmonton Refinery has completed its 2018 Turnaround. A turnaround, or shutdown, is a planned event where production is suspended or decreased for a specific time period in order to perform maintenance tasks. This involves equipment inspections, and if necessary, repairs, replacements and technology upgrades.

For this turnaround, having an additional 2,700 people coming to work on site for several weeks to complete thousands of tasks was a tremendous undertaking. Despite the unpredictable spring weather (from night temperatures of -21 C to winds gusting up to 50 kilometres), the turnaround team was pleased with the overall activities and accomplishments.

“This turnaround was our largest outage since 2006 and the first time the entire facility had been shut down since that time,” says Paul Adema, maintenance director, Suncor Edmonton Refinery.  “In addition to completing inspections, repairing equipment and  installing new vessels and piping, the full refinery outage provided an opportunity to work on utility systems that are common to the entire facility (such as electrical feeders, steam distribution piping and flare systems).” 

Safety critical to the project

Safety is Suncor’s #1 priority. All turnaround workers coming to the site attended safety orientation sessions and needed to be constantly aware of changing work conditions during the three phases of work:  shutting down the operations; conducting the turnaround work; and re-starting the facility.

Safety bulletins and messaging were shared with front line workers on a daily basis and more than 3,000 behavior-based safety observations were conducted by Suncor employees and fellow contractors.

Benefits/impacts to local community

A turnaround of this magnitude costs millions of dollars – and a good chunk of that money was spent in the local community through the purchase of materials and services, as well as the hiring of numerous contractor labour groups with specialized skills and expertise.

However, this turnaround work can also have additional impacts on the local community with an increase in flaring, noise and potential odours. Procedures and processes at the refinery are designed to minimize this impact.  Ads about the turnaround ran in local newspapers and messages were posted on the refinery community UPDATE Line during times when extra flaring/noise/odours were expected.

“There were approximately  one million hours of work completed in this turnaround, and a very big thanks to everyone who worked on this important piece of work,” says Dean Wilcox, vice president, Suncor Edmonton Refinery.  “Thanks to our local neighbours for their patience with the extra traffic – the completed work enables the refinery to run safely and reliably, which are our top priorities.”

This story contains forward-looking information. Please see legal advisories for more information.

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