​Suncor getting ready to turn on autonomous hauling at Fort Hills: This week’s best quotes

Suncor chief operating officer Mark Little watches two heavy haulers at Fort Hills dump oilsands ore into the extraction process in September 2018. Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

Here are some of the best news quotes from last week’s coverage in the Daily Oil Bulletin:

Gary Mar, president of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, which recently reduced its 2019 drilling forecast by 1,000 wells, said layoffs are already occurring during a time of the year when drilling is normally at its most robust.

“This is what I’m hearing: This should be the busiest time of the year for upstream services and guys are being laid off now. So if they’re being laid off before spring breakup, that doesn’t tell a very good story about the health of the industry right now.”

Allan Fogwill, CEO of the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), said that a joint industry-government long-term plan for Alberta’s overall system of natural gas liquids is needed if the province is to capture their full value.

“If we move forward in individual increments, we might get there but it’s going to take a lot longer. If we want development in this province, we need to work together…And then you can start shopping that overall plan to China, to Japan, to India.

“[Today] they come here, they talk to us in individual boardrooms or meeting rooms and they go away more confused than they were before. Why? Because everyone has a different story.”

Suncor Energy chief operating officer Mark Little said the company is getting ready to switch some of the massive 400-tonne heavy haulers at the new Fort Hills oilsands mine to autonomous operation, of which all 50 have the capability. Fort Hills would then become the second of Suncor’s three operated oilsands mines to go autonomous.

“We’re in the process now of getting ready to turn on some of that at Fort Hills…

"At Fort Hills we never actually hired permanent staff to operate the trucks in anticipation of us putting in autonomous haul trucks, so we have some people doing contract work today. The intent would be over the next several years to roll this through and turn all of our operated mines at base plant and at Fort Hills to fully autonomous.”

Wade Clark, executive director of Alberta Energy’s resources and development branch, said the province sees Bill C-69 as an “unprecedented federal encroachment” into a number of areas of provincial jurisdiction — specifically natural resources regulation.

“We are looking at the proposed legislation as potentially deterring investment and detrimentally impacting Canada’s economy.

“We see some concerns around the potential to affect the competitiveness of Canada’s energy and natural resource sectors, including significant potential adverse effects on the oil and gas [industry].”

Imperial Oil CEO Rich Kruger said the company is now reconsidering the timeline for its 75,000-bbl/d Aspen solvent-assisted SAGD project, which it sanctioned in November 2018 as a result of the Alberta government’s production curtailment. Construction was previously expected to be completed in 2022.

“Given we are just barely out of the starting blocks on Aspen, we are taking a look, looking at all of the various assumptions we have made and determining the right approach with Aspen, [whether we] continue as originally planned or take a more measured approach and let some of the uncertainty in the market [occur] with additional pipeline access, Line 3, Keystone XL [and] see where some of the dust settles in those areas to determine the optimum timing.”

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