Suncor draws regulatory probe

Source: Suncor Energy

Suncor Energy Inc. has racked up 32 safety violations in the past three months amid a special regulatory probe of its sites.

The province’s Occupational Health & Safety division stepped up inspections of Suncor late last year, and that resulted in increased citations, spokeswoman Kristjanna Grimmelt said in an email. The agency’s orders cite problems ranging from general housekeeping matters to fire and explosion dangers.

By contrast, just three orders were issued against the five other largest oil-sands producers in the same period, including two against Cenovus Energy Inc. and one against Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. 

Suncor is “committed to improving our safety performance,” Sneh Seetal, a spokeswoman for the Calgary-based company, said by email.

“We met with OHS in the fall and are working to support them in their inspections,” Seetal said. “Initial inspections took place in November and December 2022, and the inspection plan is expected to continue through 2023.” 

Many of the compliance orders have been closed, and the remainder are in progress to be resolved, she said. None required Suncor to stop work, she said.

While some of the orders pertained to issues like chemical and biological hazards, many were for concerns including scaffold design, guardrails, specifications and certifications, as well as log books for cranes, hoists and lifting devices, according to OHS records.

Suncor interim Chief Executive Officer Kris Smith addressed safety at the start of an investor call early Wednesday, saying collision-awareness and fatigue-management systems are being rolled out at all of its sites. The company also doubled the safety component of employees’ annual incentive program, he said.

Suncor’s safety record has been a central theme of Elliott’s campaign against the company, which it took public in April, about three months after a truck accident killed a contractor and injured two others at its Base Plant mine. In June 2021, a person was killed at a Syncrude mine, and two deaths occurred in December 2020 at the Fort Hills mine. 

Elliott, founded by Paul Singer, said in the letter introducing its campaign that Suncor had been “plagued by repeated operational challenges and safety issues” and that it needed to review its leadership and overhaul its culture, among other actions. 

Suncor suffered another fatality at its Base Plant mine in northern Alberta in July, prompting CEO Mark Little to step down. The company is still searching for a permanent replacement. Smith said Wednesday that the announcement of the new CEO “will be coming fairly soon.”

Suncor has taken steps to address safety, including implementing plans to cut its contractor workforce by 20% at its mining and upgrading sites. The company has also agreed to sell oil and gas assets in the UK and Norway and its renewable energy portfolio. 

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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