“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness,” wrote Seneca the Younger, a Roman philosopher. Roughly 2,000 years later, Diana Naca-Rowsell can relate to the Stoic philosopher’s advice after spending more than 13 years operating heavy equipment on the haul roads at Syncrude.

“There are all kinds of different conditions you must look for while driving a haul truck,” says Diana. “You will get spillage from the back of other trucks. Rutted roads are tough on the tires, the equipment and even your body. You might not realize it at the time but driving too fast or too aggressively will eventually lead to aches, whether it’s sore muscles or bones. And you have to watch for roads that are too narrow for two-way traffic as it forces your equipment into the berm, which are very rough on the tires on your blindside.”

“There are all kinds of different conditions you must look for while driving a haul truck,” says Diana. “You will get spillage from the back of other trucks. Rutted roads are tough on the tires, the equipment and even your body. You might not realize it at the time but driving too fast or too aggressively will eventually lead to aches, whether it’s sore muscles or bones. And you have to watch for roads that are too narrow for two-way traffic as it forces your equipment into the berm, which are very rough on the tires on your blindside.”

“Our tire vendor reported a 39 per cent increase in average rolling hours and 46 per cent increase in distance since the beginning of 2019, which is incredible,” says Scott Saunders, Business Team Leader, Mildred Lake Trucks & Productivity.

Haul tires are now lasting more than 5,000 operating hours and more than 100,000 kilometres on a rolling average.

– Scott Saunders

“Given that these tires cost about $60,000 each and there’s six on every truck, this is a significant savings that really demonstrates Syncrude’s commitment to operate safely, responsibly, reliably and profitably,” he says.

Mildred Lake Mining adopted the tire champion program from its counterparts at Aurora Mining, where the program had already demonstrated its value.

“Aurora’s Keith Tremblett helped set up the program at Mildred Lake. Every shift has a tire champion, who look at the roads and conditions and potential damage to tires and we correct them. We found it very helpful in the spring, when the roads get muddier in the mine due to the thawing and rain,” Scott says. “Wet tires cut much easier than a dry tire – if there are rocks in the mud and a truck drives through, it will cut up a tire – that’s the main cause of our tire failures. One of our frontline leaders, Thomas Dowson, actually dug out a rock and created a poster that we put in the Mildred Lake Mine dry (gathering area for operators) so everybody could see the potential hidden dangers. It’s an example of everybody buying into the idea, from operators to leader to planners to maintenance crews.”

Diana, for her part, feels proud to have been part of the wider effort that has lengthened the life and mileage on haul tires.

To know you’re able to make a difference really feels really good.

– Diana Naca-Roswell

When Dustin Stuyt and his team sought solutions to extend the life of tertiary sizer teeth in Syncrude’s ore crushing units, they looked internally to the Research and Development department for ideas.

The collaboration resulted in new technologies that could see oil sands mining and extraction equipment of all kinds running for years before they need maintenance.

Syncrude has been tackling material wear issues since production began in 1978. The abrasive nature of oil sand combined with the extreme temperatures throughout the year in Northern Alberta have played havoc on shovel teeth, grader blades, and tertiary sizer teeth in particular. As equipment and technology have changed, so have the solutions to these issues. The ultimate goal is to extend equipment performance as long as possible before replacement is required.

The company’s Leading Edge Advanced Performance (LEAP) project was created five years ago to look at extending the life of equipment in direct contact with oil sand and rock materials. Dan Wolfe, senior associate, Mechanical with R&D, leads the project and their work on tertiary sizer teeth has revealed viable solutions including friction welding technology adapted from the aerospace industry.

Tertiary sizers are the final step in wet crushing technology used at Syncrude’s North Mine operation to process oil sand and prepare it for hydrotransport. After oil sand is broken down by crushers in the field to about the size of a beach ball, the material has water added to it while it passes through two sets of sizers before being sent to Extraction. In secondary sizing, those beach ball pieces become the size of a volleyball, and after tertiary sizing the pieces are softball size or smaller.

Syncrude’s North Mine uses a wet crushing technology that mixes crushed oil sands with water through secondary and tertiary sizers to produce a slurry for bitumen extraction. New technology developed for the sizer teeth has the potential to extend unit run life 10 times longer than is currently achieved.

The magic happens in the tertiary sizers.

– Dustin Stuyt

“It’s the last step where oil sand is mixed with water and chemicals to convert it to a slurry of finer particles that can be easily transported to Extraction,” says Dustin Stuyt, a senior engineer with Equipment & Reliability Engineering.

Unlike other extraction technologies on site where screens reject materials larger than a specified maximum before the remainder enters the hydrotransport system, the use of sizers allows everything to be fed into the system allowing for greater bitumen recovery and fewer maintenance issues along the way to Extraction. There are four of these systems operating in parallel at North Mine.

The sizers consist of four rotating shafts about five metres long with fist-sized teeth. There are 432 teeth on each of the shafts on the tertiary sizers for a total of 1,728 in a machine. Over a typical run of 2,000 hours, more than 10 million tonnes of oil sand will pass through the system before the teeth will need maintenance, with the tertiary sizers taking the brunt of the wear.

The wear issue is significant in the sizers, because if you lose one inch off the teeth, larger materials get through and you’ll start damaging equipment downstream.

– Dan Wolfe

Dustin’s Extraction team and R&D tested a number of options for the tertiary sizer teeth with various degrees of success – including a test that both he and Dan referred to as a horrific failure – until they discovered two tungsten carbide options with serious potential.

Tungsten carbide is a dense, metal-like substance about two times heavier than steel and up to 10 times harder. It’s the hardest material commercially available to Syncrude and wears extremely well, but it is prone to cracking when attached to steel with traditional joining processes.

The first option to the team was teeth sourced from a US-based company specializing in tungsten carbide products. They developed a sizer tooth with broken bits of tungsten carbide recycled from hard rock drills embedded in the first centimetre of the tooth.
“These teeth cost less than what we’re currently using and so far the results have shown they can last about twice as long,” says Dustin.

Tertiary sizer teeth ready for action. The teeth are made from solid blocks of 25-millimetre thick tungsten carbide clad with a Kovar coating and attached to the segments using a friction welding technique.

The new teeth are being attached to the sizer segments as maintenance rebuilds take place. Using the previous teeth, the team budgeted for nine rebuilds per year but the new, lower-cost sizer teeth could reduce rebuilds to as few as three per year – meaning millions of dollars in annual savings.

“We think the teeth could process up to 30 million tonnes of ore before they need replacement,” says Dustin. “With the addition of small tungsten carbide studs between the teeth, we are seeing better product for hydrotransport and our wear rates have dropped off by 50 per cent since the wet crusher was commissioned.”

A second option, while more complex, is showing even greater potential. It involves cladding solid blocks of 25-millimetre thick tungsten carbide with a Kovar coating, and attaching them to the segments using a friction welding technique. Kovar is a unique iron-nickel-cobalt alloy that expands and contracts like the tungsten carbide material. When Kovar cools from the cladding operation it doesn’t create residual stress at the bond line. Without the Kovar coating, a crack forms when the tungsten carbide is welded to the steel and it doesn’t take long for the block to break off.

Hugh Roth is a senior associate, Metallurgy at R&D, who tested this new technology and introduced the Kovar coating/friction welding solution. “With friction welding the weld takes seconds to make. It is only hot at the interface and the carbide doesn’t know it’s being welded,” he says.

Syncrude is the first company to evaluate this technology and we anticipate it having benefits for a wide range of earth engaging equipment.

– Hugh Roth

Syncrude is analyzing results as they come in and is looking to evaluate the technology for other applications. R&D tested friction welding on grader blades and tertiary sizers this winter with extremely positive results. While regular grader blade edges last about two weeks before they need to be replaced, the test showed potential for them to last an entire season. Additionally, 66 of the friction welded sizer teeth were put into service and all of them showed little to no wear after two months. It’s possible the teeth could last 10 times longer than current teeth, or 20,000 hours.

“It’s a totally different level of capability,” said Hugh. “We can design and operate equipment in a completely different way now that we know materials can last 20,000 hours or more and we can rely on the metal keeping its shape. Outage schedules don’t have to be what they were, and we may not have to build redundancy into our operating equipment.”

While there is excitement for the results to come from this collaboration, Dan believes more can be done to improve wear rates in the future. Developing two parallel solutions for a big problem and applying those ideas to other leading edge issues, means there is more testing to do. And with that, more innovations to come for R&D and Bitumen Production to extend wear life on machinery and equipment.

Connections either big or small, direct or indirect, matter. For one Fort McMurray Catholic Schools student, a connection Syncrude made means his future is looking up and bright.

Robbie Buffalo, a Grade 11 student at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, says he’s looking forward to going to university to pursue his dream.

“This is like a dream come true,” says Robbie, who’s been offered a scholarship at the University of Alberta (U of A) playing football with the Golden Bears in 2022. The football team’s coaches have also set him up with a mentor. “Most of my family members haven’t even graduated high school. To be chosen, and to be selected to go on a scholarship for my academic skills is really great.”

Kevin Garbuio, a vocational education teacher at Father Mercredi High School, was instrumental in making the connection between the University and Robbie. Between 2015 and 2018 he brought students to the USchool program at the university. USchool aims to introduce and connect students in Grades 4 through 9 from socially vulnerable Indigenous and rural communities to the U of A. Students attend the program for a week on campus. While it’s offered at no cost to participating schools, they are responsible for their own transportation. That’s where Syncrude stepped in to provide transportation for the groups of students attending the program in Edmonton.

A group of students from the Fort McMurray Catholic Schools attend USchool at the University of Alberta (Photo supplied)

We established a relationship with the U of A through the USchool program. We then started reaching out to their athletics department and we were able to send seven to eight kids a year to their camps.

– Kevin Garbuio

That was the connection that Robbie needed to get the scholarship that will set him on a bright future.

Monica Mankowski, Deputy Superintendent at the Fort McMurray Catholic Schools District, says the whole district is proud of what Robbie has accomplished so far. But she also wants to acknowledge Syncrude for its support over the years.

We recognize that in Fort McMurray one of the barriers is the distance to a university.

– Monica Mankowski

“Syncrude supported the idea of how do we actually create a better bridge to post-secondary programs when our students have to go so far away to universities; away from family, away from a support system, and being totally independent. It can be quite a significant barrier for some student and we wanted to plant seeds to future options for students in our community.”

Kara Flynn, Syncrude’s Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, says she’s delighted to hear about Robbie’s story.

“Helping students get ahead by being a part of their education, training and advancement plays into the strength of Syncrude as a company. We believe in assisting our community to make it stronger and robust,” says Kara.

Seeing a student like Robbie on his path to success is gratifying and fulfilling.

– Kara Flynn

Over three years about 80 Fort McMurray Catholic School students have participated in the USchool program and about 30 per cent of them are planning to attend university when they finish high school.

To learn more about USchool click here.

Syncrude and USchool program

Syncrude has supported USchool through the U of A Chancellor’s Cup Golf Tournament. Over the years the company has invested close to $440,000 in the tournament. The funds raised through the tournament are used to support the USchool Program. When the Chancellor’s Cup was cancelled in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, Syncrude made a direct donation.

Warren Zubot is leading the team behind an exciting innovation that’s targeting faster, more effective reclamation of tailings areas.

Syncrude takes its environmental responsibilities seriously. That’s why we’re always looking for new and better ways to improve our sustainability and environmental performance. Take Warren, a Senior Engineering Associate who is on a mission to find a way to treat tailings water for safe release.

Tailings, a byproduct of extracting bitumen from oil sand, are stored in tailings ponds and are a mixture of water, sand, clay, fine solids, residual hydrocarbons and salts. Although these ponds are the source of water that is recycled and used in our production processes, their growth is something we want to avoid. Having the ability to treat and safely release tailings water will eliminate the need for long-term storage and allow faster and more effective return of land to a natural state.

That’s where Warren’s innovation comes in.

Applying principles that are similar to a home water filter using activated carbon, Warren’s technology uses petroleum coke from Syncrude’s upgrader to remove the unwanted compounds from tailings water, transforming it so that it can safely support aquatic life and other downstream uses. Once tailings water becomes safe for release, tailings areas can be returned back to a productive natural state, making this water treatment innovation a huge step in solving a major reclamation challenge.

After a successful small-scale pilot in 2012, Syncrude contracted one of the region’s leading Indigenous businesses to design and construct a full-scale pilot treatment facility, as well as manage the ongoing monitoring of treated water. The facility began operation in June 2019.

It takes a lot of outside-the-box thinking to create something that’s never been done before. It took a lot of collaboration across Syncrude teams, along with the skills of a local Indigenous business to make it possible.

– Warren zubot

Syncrude has engaged Indigenous communities and other regional stakeholders to educate them about the project, seek feedback and ensure we work with our neighbours to mitigate their concerns.

As always, Syncrude will share insights with our industry partners through COSIA, as well as with academic institutions to advance knowledge and ensure results are transparent and publicly available in peer-reviewed scientific literature.

When Rochelle Young first started working at Syncrude 20 years ago, she heard about plans to turn the west in-pit tailings pond into a lake.

“I remember wondering, ‘How is that actually possible? I was working as an environmental scientist and it was hard to imagine.”

Today, Rochelle works as a Regulatory Affairs Advisor and that tailings pond is now Base Mine Lake, an eight-square-kilometre pit lake that borders Highway 63 to the west as you travel south from the Mildred Lake site.

Syncrude stopped using it as a tailings facility close to 10 years ago – on Dec. 31, 2012. The lake now plays a critical role in Syncrude’s reclaimed landscape as the first commercial-scale demonstration of water-capped tailings technology and the oil sands industry’s first pit lake.

But, why pit lakes? Surface mining results in large pits that must be reclaimed. Some mine pits are filled with mine materials such as overburden or tailings to form a solid surface, which is then reclaimed to forests and wetlands. Other mine pits are reclaimed to lakes.

Due to the nature and timing of mine material movement and use, the overburden that was removed to initiate the pit is reclaimed as soon as practical on Syncrude’s site. This is part of our commitment to progressive reclamation and meeting our goal of minimizing the effect of disturbance.

However, this leaves insufficient material available to fill one or more of the mine pits at the completion of mining. These pits may be partially or fully filled with water (mine and/or fresh water) and reclaimed as a lake (pit lake). Pit lakes reduce the need for material re-handling, which would result in increased emissions from material transportation (such as greenhouse gases or nitrogen oxides), lengthen reclamation timelines and success, and increased costs.

Pit lakes are used at open-pit mine sites around the world, and are a global mining industry best practice for reclamation and closure. Pit lakes support a variety of plants and animals typical of aquatic ecosystems and are integrated into the reclaimed landscape.

“Syncrude has included water-capped fluid tailings in pit lakes since its earliest closure plan designs,” says Rochelle. “The Alberta regulator gave our company approval to have Base Mine Lake as a demonstration to prove that pit lakes are viable.”

Developing a successful pit lake requires planning, monitoring and research to learn and guide lake management.

Pit lake designs and plans have changed over time to reflect the state of knowledge of oil sands mine waters and tailings, technology advances, changing regulations and inputs from local stakeholders and Indigenous communities.

Base Mine Lake’s water capping technology includes filling the empty mine pit with fluid tailings (a mixture of clay, fine solids, water and residual bitumen), and then capping it with water to form a lake. The demonstration intends to show that the water quality will improve over time while the tailings solids remain isolated at the bottom of the lake.

Rochelle, who is working on several tailings projects, explains pit lakes are just one of a suite of reclamation methods that are used today and that like with any reclamation project, there are challenges. However, she believes that this is a challenge that Syncrude will meet.

“Results of the water-capped tailings technology are very positive so far. Syncrude is demonstrating we have physically sequestered the tailings from the water body,” says Rochelle. “We are also showing the water quality is improving over time, which is supporting natural biological communities to develop.”

With roughly 40 years of rigorous research on pit lakes among Canadian oil sands producers, Rochelle is confident and optimistic about Syncrude’s reclamation that includes Base Mine Lake and future pit lakes to come.

It is amazing to see the progress over the past 20 years. The Base Lake Mine project demonstrates what can be achieved with research, experience and hard work. It shows what seems impossible is within your reach.

– Rochelle Young

Kerri Cutler and Craig Keeping work on two separate but interdependent teams that helped each other achieve big things in 2020.

At Syncrude, our workforce is made up of about 5,000 employees. We use the term workforce because when we work together as One Team, we are just that—a force. Due to the sequential, just-in-time nature of our production process, we all rely on each other to keep operations running smoothly.

Take Kerri and Craig’s story, for instance. They may not work directly together, but thanks to extraordinary teamwork and cross-discipline collaboration both of their teams achieved remarkable milestones in 2020.

As a heavy duty mechanic on Team 506, Craig’s team achieved an almost unimaginable milestone with one of the trucks from the 17-100 series, which were introduced into service in 1999 making them the oldest trucks in Syncrude’s fleet. Under the care of many, haul truck 100 surpassed 150,000 hours in service—more than doubling its original life expectancy of 72,000 hours!

Craig has been tuning up 100 series haulers for nearly a decade. Over the years he’s developed a real passion for keeping them running at their best and performing in line with the new models. He’s also the first to point out that a milestone like this doesn’t happen in isolation.

“No one person made 150,000 hours happen. It took a complete group effort to make it possible, from our leaders to our coordinators to the planning department to all the mechanics in the shop.

It’s a whole Aurora Mine Maintenance Team effort really.

– Craig Keeping

It’s that kind of teamwork that keeps our haul trucks running reliably and delivering a steady stream of oil sands to Extraction. It was also a major contributor in helping another set of our colleagues achieve an outstanding outcome of their own.

The Bitumen Production team set not one but two outstanding production records in 2020: best month ever in December with 13,383 kilobarrels (KBBL), breaking the previous record of 13,074 KBBL set in August 2016, and best week ever with 3,272 KBBL in the week of December 15, breaking the record of 3,251 KBBL set the week of December 22, 2018.

Panel Operator Kerri Cutler remarks that this amazing achievement is the result of cooperation and alignment across the organization. After working 13 years as a field operator, Kerri now puts her field experience to work in the control room.

“Being on the panel gives you a different perspective of the importance of equipment reliability, availability and working closely with other teams—upstream and downstream,” observed Kerri.

Collaboration is key. Everybody always comes together to figure out the most efficient, most effective way to get things done.

– Kerri Cutler

“This team spirit not only played a big role in achieving the record bitumen production, it also makes Syncrude a great place to work.”

Driving a vehicle where the steering wheel sits two storeys off the ground while carrying a payload of close to one million pounds might intimidate some people.

But Nicole Rymes, who had never even driven a pickup truck growing up in the Ottawa Valley, isn’t one of them. And whether driving a heavy hauler to convincing her manager to dress up as a superhero for a United Way fundraiser, Nicole is not afraid to take on challenges that might daunt others.

“I moved to Fort McMurray in 2008 after going on a vacation and catching up with a cousin who had moved there,” says Nicole. “I arrived in Fort McMurray on a Tuesday and started working at Aurora on that Friday, driving a 797 for a contractor. It happened that quickly.”

After joining Syncrude as an employee one year later, Nicole moved from the operator’s seat to a series of new roles, each with different challenges.

“I’ve received several great opportunities working at Syncrude, from working as a mine dispatcher to becoming a field leader to working with Internal Audit and Business Controls so our four mining teams at Aurora complied with their systems,” says Nicole, who now works as a Leadership Development Coach, working to improve the skills of frontline leaders throughout the organization.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot through the different roles, tasks and opportunities I’ve been given.

– Nicole Rymes

I’ve also been fortunate to have some great mentors, such as Lynn Smith, Gary McNeilly, Sherill Stevens and Glen Finnson.”

Nicole began balancing her careers work with commitments with a new and growing family. “I met my husband Ken here – he works for Suncor in tailings management as project specialist,” says Nicole, who was married in 2012. “We have two daughters. Alice was born in 2013 and Lucy came along two years later.”

Balancing the commitment of her career and family poses challenges willingly embraced by Nicole as well as by her husband.

“It’s something that everybody has to deal with it but I’ve always had a lot of support from my leaders when something has come up, such as one of the girls has come down with something. They’ve always been understanding and I don’t think that’s something unique to me,” she says. “What’s funny is the kids are very proud of the fact that their Mom works at Syncrude. My oldest daughter attends school at St. Anne’s and when the teacher mentioned a particular initiative was sponsored by Syncrude, she stuck up her hand and told everybody ‘My Mom works there!’”

She’s also applied some lessons working in her field coaching role to her parenting.

As a field coach, you are working with leaders to help shape the behaviours of employees in a positive way through teaching applied behavioral science.

– Nicole Rymes

A lot of this is around identifying positive behaviors and highlighting them through positive reinforcement,” she says. “This has definitely influenced how I parent my children. I’m looking for positive things that I see them do and highlighting them, whether it is tidying their rooms or clearing the dishes after a meal.”

In addition to her roles at work and home, Nicole has taken on another challenge as the chair of this year’s Syncrude United Way Campaign for employees, which supports the United Way and its agencies in Wood Buffalo, Calgary and Edmonton.

“I started out with the United Way by helping out the coordinator of the Aurora campaign. We’d organize barbecues and make sure all the shifts could see the United Way rollout presentation,” she says. “I took on that role next year and I had a lot of fun with it. I created a superhero competition where all employees at Aurora could cast their vote for somebody they’d like to see dress up as a superhero for a day. Gary McNeilly, who was the manager up there at the time, ‘won’ the contest and was a very good sport about donning a mask and cape. It raised a lot of money for a great cause.”

Syncrude Vice President Bill Chase, the executive who sponsors the employees’ United Way campaign, asked Nicole to serve as co-chair for the 2020 campaign, which raised more than $2.1 million.

Nicole’s passion for the cause really stood out when she was organizing the United Way events at Aurora and growing the campaign wide merchandise program.

– Bill Chase

It made her a natural to approach for a leadership role with the overall campaign,” says Bill. “Her creativity in finding fundraisers and champions in different areas so our employees could hear the message and participate has helped the United Way campaign succeed, despite the considerable challenges posed by COVID-19.”

And for her part, Nicole sees volunteering to help the United Way as part of her commitment to making Fort McMurray a better place to live and work for her family and her coworkers.

“I’m proud to work for an organization that has made significant investments in this community and encourages its employees to volunteer to help make this a wonderful place to work and raise a family,” she says. “As a mother, it makes me feel good to see my daughters have the opportunities provided by Syncrude and others in industry. You see it in the schools but also in the recreational facilities and programs in the region. Seeing what my daughters have available to them makes for a pretty good Mother’s Day gift.”

From clear blue summer skies to darkened, snowy winter days, Glen Noseworthy has made the same daily commute on Highway 63 between Fort McMurray to Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site for the past 17 years.

And while the decal on Glen’s company truck has changed during that time, his commitment has remained consistent. “You work safely and effectively to deliver real value as a contractor,” says Glen, who now oversees about roughly 450 workers as BrandSafway Infinity’s site manager. “That value hasn’t changed even though the name on the door is new.”

BrandSafway Infinity – a partnership between the multinational industrial services provider and Infinity Métis Corporation, the business arm of the McMurray Métis Local 1935 – signed a five-year agreement with Syncrude last month to provide scaffolding, insulation, sandblasting, coatings, fireproofing, rope access and refractory largely in the Mildred Lake upgrading complex.

The new partners share common values. “We came together with Infinity Métis because it was a great fit,” says Ken Sandmoen, BrandSafway Infinity’s director and general manager. “BrandSafway, which used to operate under other names, most notably as Aluma Systems and Safway Services, has had a presence on Syncrude’s sites for more than 20 years.

Outside the plant gate, we are committed to the Wood Buffalo region and the community of Fort McMurray. We sponsor a lot of minor sports teams and school trips.

– Ken sandmoen

“You’ll see our staging and fencing so the public have safe access for different events around the region. Our employees volunteer in the community because they live and work here. And both Infinity Métis and Syncrude share those values.”

The contract will also see benefits for members of McMurray Métis Local 1935. “When we partner with a corporation such as BrandSafway, they help our community by providing training, education and other opportunities, such as summer employment for students so they can be exposed to the opportunities provided by industry,” says Shawn Myers, CEO for Infinity Métis Corporation, which has partnerships with eight other corporations.

It’s not just about making money. It’s about helping the Métis communities in this region prosper and grow. We want to be leaders in building this region and industry.

– Shawn Myers

And while our primary focus is always going to be here, having a partner with a large presence across the country can help us provide opportunities for Indigenous people outside the region as well.”

The new contract is part of Syncrude’s increased focus in seeking opportunities with Indigenous-owned businesses, including partnerships such as BrandSafway Infinity.

“It fits into our larger goal of ensuring Indigenous people in Wood Buffalo share in the opportunities created by oil sands development, which includes developing businesses that can supply goods and services,” says Doug Webb, Syncrude’s Business Liaison. “Syncrude has invested significantly in the growth and success of many Indigenous companies in the Wood Buffalo region. We now do business with more than 50 such suppliers.

We are committed to working with our suppliers to improve their competitiveness so we all have a sustainable future.

– Doug Webb

Syncrude has spent nearly $5 billion with Indigenous vendors since 1992, including a record $672 million in 2020. “We also recognize the importance of local suppliers to the region as we’re based here, too,” Doug says. “And it’s good to work with local companies who understand the industry.”

BrandSafway Infinity also recognizes it’s important to deliver value. “We share Syncrude’s commitments on operating safely, responsibly, reliably and profitably,” Ken says. “Delivering on that will ensure both Syncrude and BrandSafway Infinity continue to succeed for the next five years and beyond.”
And that’s something that remains uppermost in Glen’s mind as he drives down the highway to work every day. “Every one of us brings that value by working safely and effectively on every task on every shift,” he says. “When you do that, you can feel very good when you leave through the plant gate at the end of the day.”

Proactive thinking and relentless efforts by Syncrude’s Health Services team have been pivotal in keeping our workforce safe and community protected during the pandemic.

For Syncrude’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ahmed Elmezughi, and Health Services Leader, Gladys Hokanson ensuring the reliable delivery of medical, health, and wellness services to everyone in the organization is a full-time responsibility. Then COVID-19 happened. And suddenly those responsibilities—along with their workloads—took a whole new turn.

As an occupational health and safety professional you try to forecast potential threats to your staff’s wellbeing. You don’t anticipate having to deal with a pandemic.

– gladys hokanson

When it became apparent early in 2020 that the spread of COVID-19 to Alberta was imminent, protecting the health of Syncrude’s workforce—and the community as a whole— from the virus became their most urgent priority. Ahmed and Gladys and their teams immediately got to work developing a plan, educating people, and outlining procedures and practices within Syncrude to help keep operations running safely under unprecedented circumstances.

“In those early days, there were many inconsistencies in the information. Dealing with ever-evolving information was a big challenge. Our nurses and health team members were running off their feet, doing all they could to stay on top of it,” Ahmed added.

But as both will proudly attest, everyone continues to step up to the challenge and contribute to what have been largely successful outcomes in the continuing battle to protect people from the virus.

Their willingness to put in that 120%, to follow the Operational Discipline principles of asking questions, seeking to understand, collaborating with one another—it has truly been remarkable.

– Dr. Ahmed Elmezughi

“The whole Syncrude family is pulling together. They’re supporting each other. They’re intervening to keep each other safe. We definitely have had a ‘One Team’ mentality throughout the whole organization,” continued Gladys, a Registered Nurse.

Although the pair realize that the pandemic is far from over—it’s now into its third wave, with the majority of cases being highly contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus—they are optimistic about Syncrude’s workforce remaining committed to protecting one another’s safety until it is. When asked what they’re looking to most once COVID is behind us, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation from either one.

“We have a real family attitude at Syncrude. I think that social distancing and lack of personal interaction has been really difficult for a lot of people. I know it has been for me, so I look forward to being able to give people a hug again,” shared Gladys.

“Not having to worry about anyone in Syncrude contracting COVID ever again, that will be a high-five moment for me,” said Ahmed.

For new Senior Vice President Production Andrew Rosser moving to Fort McMurray and working with Syncrude feels like returning “home.”

“We’ve lived in a lot of different places but Fort McMurray is where I will always call home. It was my home for more than 30 years,” says Andrew.

The new SVP and his family moved to the community in 1980 from the U.K., with both his parents working with Syncrude. “I remember the strong family feel of Syncrude growing up – the BBQs, the hockey games, the lobster boils,” says Andrew.

He joined Syncrude as a new graduate in 1998. In a span of a decade he served in a variety of positions, including leadership, with Operations, Maintenance, Technical and Business Development before moving onto Shell Albian Sands to support the Jackpine Mine Expansion.

Syncrude plays a critical role in providing trusted energy that enhances people’s lives, while being safe, reliable, responsible and profitable.

– Andrew Rosser.

“This is an asset that has a distinguished history that people can be very proud of and I’m looking forward to doing my part in creating the conditions where people can deliver at their best”.
His most recent position was senior lead of Shell’s Mars Corridor, a set of offshore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. His experience includes the role of Vice President of Environment Health and Safety for Shell Canada before his last two international assignments in the offshore industry.
“I really enjoy working with others and working to accomplish things as a team and I have strong values around honesty and respect,” says Andrew. “I care deeply about safety – this is more than processes and practices for me; it is about sending each person home safely every day to their family.”
Andrew has a mining engineering degree and an MBA from the University of Alberta and studied at Keyano College after graduating from Westwood High School.

Learn more about Andrew by reading his bio.