Surmont, the sequel
Construction is well underway on our Surmont expansion, a Canadian oil sands megaproject. Once complete this development, which is the largest steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD)
project to be built in a single phase, will play a significant role in meeting the global energy needs of current and future generations.
“We are entering a very exciting time. As we progress towards the start-up of Surmont Phase 2, we will be growing our staffing levels by about 4 to 5 times. To put that into perspective, that means Surmont will expand to the size of a small town – all over the next 3 years,” said Kevin Schaupmeyer Start-Up Superintendent - Oil Sands Operations.
Surmont Phase 2 construction began in 2010, with production startup targeted for 2015. Following startup, Surmont’s gross production capacity is estimated to be 150 MBOED, with net peak production of 65 MBOED anticipated by 2018. The Surmont oil sands leases are located approximately 35 miles south of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Surmont is a 50/50 joint venture with Total S.A.
Safety Commitment, Challenges
Production of such volume requires careful planning and an unparalleled commitment to safety. With attendance at the construction worksite averaging about 4,200 employees and contractors each day, ensuring that the site culture promotes safety is a constant, calculated, team effort.
“We have a number of innovative safety programs that engage the workforce, both contractors and employees,” said Craig Dotson, Project Director – Surface Facilities. “We are making very good progress. Our safety record echoes the dedication of the team.”
Building such a large project also creates a unique set of challenges.
“When something gets off-track it’s a domino effect - the complexity because of the volume and number of subcontractors means that a lot more planning is required,” noted Dotson. “A shortage of cable, for example, has the potential to cause multiple logistical headaches.”
The effort required to recruit workers to Surmont is “mega” as well.
To help the company attract top talent for the upcoming operations of this facility, advertising and online campaigns were launched. Touting the rotational work schedule, hotel-like accommodations and facilities of the Surmont Regional Residence, impressive benefits and family-like atmosphere, the effort ensures that the project team has a well-qualified pool of candidates from which to choose.
A good neighbor
Surmont improvements don’t just impact production and people; wildlife also receives careful consideration. Ongoing efforts ensure that site personnel operate in a manner that does not cause danger to animals or humans. There are a number of programs in place across the company to monitor the human impact on the habitat and protect and preserve wildlife. For example, at Surmont wildlife crossings were established so that site pipelines accommodate animal migration patterns. And everyone at the site submits Wildlife Observation Cards documenting the time and place of wildlife sightings.
“The cards allow us to track what species of animal was spotted, where it was seen and what time we saw it. “This information gives us insight on natural patterns so we can adjust work if needed”,” said Andy Strasser, ConocoPhillips Canada’s Manager of Regulatory and Environment. This documentation helps people affiliated with the project have as little impact as possible on area wildlife and has proved to be a valuable planning tool, he added.
Additionally, carefully crafted surface plans prevent water runoff from escaping the site and impacting water quality at Engstrom Lake; the bridge crossing Creek Crossing was designed to minimize impact to a local creek. – just a few examples of the company’s integrated approach to water sustainability.
“People are very receptive to our efforts and really appreciate that an oil and gas company cares,” said Strasser.
The Surmont team is also committed to being a good neighbor, both lending a helping hand and providing funding and manpower to efforts that improve quality of life. An Integrated Local Community Plan was designed to ensure local people benefit from the industrial activity in and near their communities. By the end of 2013, the Surmont Phase 2 construction project has already spent over $300 million over 4 years using local Aboriginal contracting companies – already more than double the original target of $150 million.
“We believe that our social license to operate is earned by having environmentally sensitive standards and a commitment to bettering communities where we operate,” said Lloyd Visser, Vice President Environment & Sustainable Development, ConocoPhillips Canada. “Our social, technological and environmental performance is foundational to our competitiveness, reputation and access to both the resource and markets.”