Major milestone: Suncor’s Fort Hills bitumen has same carbon-intensity as average US crude oil

Suncor oilsands hauler

With production from Fort Hills, Hebron ramping up earlier than expected, Suncor well-positioned for strong production remainder of 2018

Suncor says that with the completion of major planned turnaround activities and strong production from growth projects, Q2 production to date averaged approximately 636,000 b/d reflecting the significant planned turnarounds in the quarter, and exited May at approximately 800,000 b/d.

Planned turnaround work experienced some delays and additional work, but is now complete at Syncrude, Suncor’s Oil Sands base plant and its four refineries. In June these assets are expected to run at full rates.  The Hebron and Fort Hills growth projects are delivering production that is exceeding expectations.

“The Fort Hills mega-project has surpassed expectations; it came online safely, ramped up well ahead of schedule and it’s producing a high-quality, fungible bitumen that is expected to continue to receive a premium price to in situ bitumen,” said Steve Williams, president and chief executive officer.

“Fort Hills’ bitumen has the same GHG emissions intensity per barrel as the average crude refined in the U.S. Our investors and stakeholders can be proud of advances being made in decreasing the carbon intensity of our production.”

Following the May 11, 2018 commissioning of Fort Hills’ third and final train of secondary extraction, Suncor tested the plant at full capacity, proving the design capacity of 194,000 bbls/d. In addition, the company has completed a seven-day reliability test of the plant running in excess of 90% capacity (175,000 bbls/d) with no significant issues.

With the advanced commissioning of the final train of secondary extraction, the plant has ramped up earlier than anticipated.

As a result, while the company will be accelerating the growth of planned mine capacity to align with the plant capacity, Fort Hills is expected to continue to track at the high end of guidance for the quarter. Looking forward to Q4, Suncor is now targeting 90% average production at Fort Hills, up from the original guidance which had a Q4 midpoint of approximately 80%.

When the joint venture partners announced that they would proceed with the Fort Hills project in 2013, the total project cost was estimated at a capital intensity of approximately $84,000 per flowing barrel, the project was scheduled to produce first oil as early as the fourth quarter of 2017 and was expected to achieve 90% of its planned production capacity within 12 months.

Save for a few weeks delay of first oil, for Suncor the project’s overall fundamentals and ramp up have been delivered faster or better than forecasted.

The successful completion of the Fort Hills project is the direct result of a well-developed and executed strategy to level load construction, accelerated commissioning plans using synergies between base plant and Fort Hills, the progressive turnover of assets from construction to operations, and the staged ramp up of production over time.

The project was built during a period of low oil prices and has come online just as oil prices have strengthened. Suncor expects Fort Hills will continue to provide significant returns for decades.

With production from both Fort Hills and Hebron ramping up earlier than anticipated and the completion of major planned maintenance at Suncor’s oil sands and downstream operations, Suncor is well-positioned for strong production performance for the remainder of the year.

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