Suncor CEO says partners holding up Syncrude reliability improvements

By Dan Healing   

Industry Energy Manufacturing Resource Sector energy manufacturing Oil Sands oilsands Suncor Syncrude upgrader Williams

"Not getting the sense of urgency or support we would like from our partners at the moment": Williams.

Syncrude upgrading employees with one of the world’s largest vacuum distillation units in the background.
Photo: Syncrude

CALGARY — Suncor Energy Inc. CEO Steve Williams says its partners in the Syncrude consortium are resisting taking action that could help solve ongoing performance issues at the four-decades-old northern Alberta oil sands mine and upgrader.

The partners are divided on “commercial” matters, Williams said on a conference call , adding he is frustrated with the lack of progress on settling those issues.

A key development to improve Syncrude performance would be building pipeline links with Suncor’s nearby plant to allow better integration between the two operations, he said.

“We know we will get a step change in the performance of Syncrude when we put these pipelines between Syncrude and our Base Plant,” said Williams.


“We’re not getting the sense of urgency or support we would like from our partners at the moment. So we’re working hard to try to get that but there are some areas where we’re having to push the partners, because of its governance structure, to start thinking differently.”

Suncor owns 58.74 per cent of the 350,000-barrel-per-day project but it is operated by a separate company. Calgary-based Imperial Oil Ltd. has a management services contract and owns 25 per cent, with the rest owned by subsidiaries of Chinese companies Sinopec and CNOOC.

A sudden power outage at Syncrude in June knocked out the upgrader and it isn’t expected to fully recover until September.

In its second-quarter report, Suncor said its oilsands production in 2018 is expected to be 422,500 barrels per day, including its share from Syncrude, down from previous guidance of 440,000 bpd.

Imperial wouldn’t comment directly on the talks.

“Imperial continually discusses improvement opportunities with its joint venture partners,” said spokeswoman Lisa Schmidt in an email. “It is not our practice to share those discussions publicly.”


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