​Fort Hills hits nameplate capacity months ahead of schedule

Image: Suncor Energy

Suncor Energy Inc. says that the new Fort Hills oilsands mine has already reached its nameplate production capacity, months ahead of schedule and despite slower than expected start up.

The company says that following the May 11 commissioning of the third and final secondary extraction train, the plant was tested at full rates of 194,000 bbls/d. In addition, Suncor says it has completed a seven-day reliability test of the plant running in excess of 90 percent of capacity “with no significant issues.”

Completion of ramp-up was initially expected by the end of 2018, and Suncor maintained that schedule following a delay in start-up of secondary extraction. First oil, which was targeted before the end of 2017, was achieved at the end of January. In its first quarter 2018 results, minority partner Teck Resources announced that by the end of March the project was producing in excess of 100,000 bbls/d.

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

“The Fort Hills megaproject 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,” Suncor president and CEO Steve Williams said in a statement.

“We are especially appreciative of the dedication and careful planning and execution that our team and partners have demonstrated in achieving this remarkable result.”

Fort Hills bitumen, he said, has the same GHG emissions intensity/bbl as the average crude refined in the United States and the company’s investors and stakeholders can be proud of advances being made in decreasing the carbon intensity of its production.

Suncor added on Thursday that the Hebron offshore project is also delivering production that is exceeding expectations. Additionally, major maintenance is now complete at Syncrude, its Base Plant, and its four refineries. In June these assets are expected to run at full rates. The company says its second quarter 2018 production to date has averaged approximately 636,000 bbls/d, exiting May at approximately 800,000 bbls/d.