It’s been two months since long-standing neighbours and oil sands pioneers, Suncor and Syncrude, joined in commerce matrimony.

The two companies officially became one on Sept. 30, 2021—a critical step towards driving greater integration, efficiencies and competitiveness across all Suncor-operated assets in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB).

Both companies have been critical builders of Alberta’s oil and gas sector since the 1960s and are deeply committed to the RMWB region, both in terms of employment and community investment. For many, Suncor and Syncrude have been fixtures in daily life, either as an employer that has employed not only themselves but also family members over multiple generations or as a sponsor of community activities, infrastructure or volunteer support.

“We have been neighbours for almost 50 years and both Syncrude and Suncor have a proud history with deep roots in the industry and community,” says Mark Little, Suncor’s President and CEO.

“Separately, we’ve each helped establish the oil sands as a reliable and competitive energy source. Together we can leverage our shared expertise to meet the world’s evolving energy needs and be leaders in sustainability.

I am excited about our shared future and what we can achieve as one team.

– Mark Little

In the RMWB, Suncor operates its oil sands Base Plant, in situ assets Firebag and McKay River, as well as joint venture assets, Fort Hills and Syncrude. Since 2016, Suncor has grown its ownership in Syncrude from 12 per cent to 58.74 per cent through acquisitions.

Other joint venture owners for the Syncrude asset are Imperial Oil Resources Limited (25 per cent), Sinopec Oil Sands Partnership (9.03 per cent) and CNOOC Oil Sands Canada (7.23 per cent).

Suncor President and CEO chats with a Syncrude employee on the day Suncor assumed operatorship of Syncrude.

“Since the plan to assume operatorship was announced a year ago, we’ve worked closely with the Syncrude team as well as the other joint venture owners to ensure a smooth transition of operatorship,” explains Mark. “This is a new chapter for the Syncrude project and by capitalizing on the collective strength of all of the Suncor-operated assets in the RMWB, we’ll work to improve operating performance and unlock significant value.”

This integration will lead to improvements and benefit from the collective strength of Suncor and Syncrude’s regional operations while continuing to responsibly develop Alberta’s valuable oil sands resource—a goal shared by both companies.

The coupling also means that both Suncor and Syncrude will benefit from shared expertise, similar operations and the regional proximity of assets. Ensuring Suncor’s operations remain regionally and globally competitive.

Initiatives like the Interconnect Pipeline—bi-directional pipelines that connect Suncor’s Base Plant and Syncrude’s Mildred Lake operations, optimizing facilities and improving reliability—have proven that working as one allows both companies to achieve more flexibility in the operations, which leads to more production.

The integration is already showing signs of the growth that is to come, according to Suncor’s latest quarterly results.

Suncor’s total upstream production increased to 698,600 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) in the third quarter of 2021, compared to 616,200 boe/d in the prior year quarter, due to continued strong performance from the company’s in situ assets and increased production volumes at Syncrude.

The change in operatorship is expected to generate cost savings through eliminating duplicate costs and services, coordinating maintenance and turnaround activities, sharing best practices and increasing buying power by combining supply chain operations. The savings for the joint venture owners could add up to $100 million in the first six months, with an additional $200 million through 2022 – 2023.

As long-time neighbours and community partners, Syncrude and Suncor are excited about the economic growth and prosperity for Alberta and the rest of Canada.

Syncrude is aware of an increase in odours in the local region during the last week. We take odour concerns seriously and all reports are investigated.

Currently, work is progressing to address identified sources of odours that may be associated with sour water tank repairs at our Mildred Lake site and air quality is being monitored continuously. We expect maintenance activities to continue during the month of October and all appropriate actions will be taken to identify and minimize any potential further odours throughout this period.

Syncrude is committed to being a responsible neighbour and we appreciate your patience. If you have a concern or would like to report an odour, please reach out through the Alberta Energy and Environmental Response Hotline at 1-800-222-6514. In addition, the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) operates one of the most extensive air monitoring networks in North America and up-to-date air quality information is available on their website at

Thank you,
Syncrude Community Relations

It’s a “retirement” nearly 10 years in the making after almost 40 years of service. And it marks a significant milestone for Syncrude and the oil sands industry.

Syncrude has submitted the closure completion report for Coke Cell 5 (CC5) to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). Once accepted, Syncrude will remove CC5 from its list of dams.

“These dams are regulated by the AER because they retain fluids and tailings,” says Glen Miller, an Associate Geotechnical Engineer, Regulatory & Lease Development. “We have about 20 fluid-retaining structures on the AER’s registry. Once they are no longer required, we design and implement our closure plan then apply to remove them.”

What will make CC5 different than other dams in the oil sands is it’s the first-ever tailings facility reconfigured into a permanent, reclaimed landform that will be de-registered.

“We’ve had other dams de-registered, but they were in-pit structures submerged under water or tailings,” Glen says. “We are not burying CC5. We’ve physically modified it so it can be regulated in the same way as an inactive overburden dump. It is already revegetated and will eventually be ready to achieve a reclamation certificate, just like Gateway Hill.”

Construction began in 1985 on CC5, a ring dyke built with overburden to hold petroleum coke hydraulically poured into it. Syncrude completed the infilling of coke in late 1999. Ten years later, the AER approved Syncrude’s detailed closure plan showing the modifications required to close CC5, which covers an area of 170 hectares on the north shore of Base Mine Lake.

“After getting approval of our detailed closure plan, it took four years to complete the work, which included the excavation of an outlet in CC5’s southwest corner and recontouring a plateau into a shallow valley that drains environmental runoff towards that outlet,” Glen says. “We submitted the closure completion report in December 2020 and held a thorough field tour of CC5 with the person reviewing the submission for the AER in June. Now we’re just waiting to hear back from the AER soon and are very excited. This will be a significant milestone for Syncrude and for the industry.”

While many people were involved in the shepherding of CC5 towards this historic milestone, Glen singled out a couple key contributors.

“Wayne Mimura, who oversaw each step of this submission, from initial development to final review, as Senior Geotechnical Advisor and Engineer of Record for CC5. And Jack Law, as the Regulatory Affairs Advisor responsible for CC5, served as the point person with the AER and guided the submission’s scope,” Glen says.

As with many of successes here at Syncrude, collaboration helped fuel the success.

– Glen Miller

And Glen, who serves as Syncrude’s closure designer, expects to see the closure of tailings facilities become the norm in the coming decade.

“Folks should look forward to seeing this become routine. We’ve got a few in progress at Aurora and Mildred Lake sites. The East In-Pit detailed closure plan was submitted to AER this past June and we are currently in the process of developing a similar submission for South West In-Pit and then Base Mine Lake is next. To see these closure and reclamation projects accelerate in the areas where we first starting mining in the 1970s, it’s really rewarding to be a part of the final chapters that conclude our use of this land.”

From a mine pit to a tailings pond to an industry-first commercial demonstration of a pit lake, Base Mine Lake has gone through a series of changes over the years.

And much of the monitoring and research by scientists have charted the progress within the lake, right down to the tiny microbial communities that inhabit the 800 hectares of water (Micro-organism ‘hunter’ sees signs of progress in Base Mine Lake’s microbial communities).

Given the amount of research into water-capped tailings management technology since the early 1980s, it was unsurprising to see Syncrude turn to technology to solve the issue of oil sheens on the lake’s surface.

“Residual bitumen from extraction makes up a small portion of fluid fine tailings (FFT). When we placed the FFT into the pit that now forms Base Mine Lake, some of the bitumen was liberated, resulting in mats that formed in two corners of the lake,” says Brandon Kremp, a mining engineer in Tailings & Lease Development. “The initial filling of the pit and the bitumen mats have resulted in a hydrocarbon sheen on the surface and bitumen coating along the shoreline.”

Syncrude first attempted to remove the mats using a hydraulic dredging technology, where a large screw rotated into the tailings bed to disturb the bitumen, which was sucked by a cutter head similar to a vacuum.

“We pumped that material into a nearby holding pond in 2018 and 2019,” says Brandon, who joined Syncrude in 2019 after starting as a co-op student three years earlier. “Syncrude had used that technology to transfer materials being holding ponds for several years but it didn’t work as well on the bitumen mats due to the viscosity of the material.”
A team began researching alternatives and came up with another solution, an underwater mechanical excavator that could scoop material from the tailings bed.
“We began using this method when we started dredging in the middle of August and will use it until the end of the season, which typically comes near the end of October when the lake starts to freeze over,” says Sebastian Lastra Valenzuela, Team Leader, Mildred Lake Tailings Planning.

It’s very exciting to be involved in proving this concept and making sure it’s successful to show end-of-mine lakes are suitable closure features for both Syncrude and oil sands as a whole.

– Sebastian Lastra Valenzuela

Every operator has this type of lake in their closure plan and we are proud to be the ones pioneering it.”

As with proving any ground-breaking technology, the team has faced some challenges. “But we’ve learned from them and are gratified to see the result of a lot of hard work. We are at the very early stages but the technology is showing real promise,” says Sebastian, who joined Syncrude in 2014.

And the success to date has many authors as collaboration with other business units, including Research & Development, Tailings & Lease Development – Expense Projects and Operations – helped Sebastian’s team unlock the solutions.

“There’s a lot of people who deserve to share the credit for driving this project forward, including Keith Baker, Sandra Armstrong and Robert Trettenero,” says Sebastian. “Our work has also been strongly supported by Trevor Finlayson, Barry Bara, Dallas Heisler and Carla Wytrykush.”

To the untrained eye, Base Mine Lake looks like an unremarkable body of water with the sole oddity of having mechanical falcons and other noise-makers floating on buoys to deter waterfowl from landing on its surface.

Beneath that water and surrounding landscape, close to 40 years of research has gone into the lake, a demonstration project of Syncrude’s water-capped tailings technology to turn a former mine pit and tailings pond into a lake capable of supporting aquatic plants and animals.

“Syncrude and its researchers have earned more than 240 patents but we have just one to show for all the research put into the water-capped tailings technology. That’s primarily because we are sharing our intellectual property on our reclamation technologies publicly,” says Mal Carroll, Syncrude’s Manager – Research & Development. “Six universities have conducted research on Base Mine Lake’s progress as part of a very extensive research and monitoring program and they share their findings through peer-reviewed papers. We also share what we’ve found with our industry partners through organizations such as Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance as well as post that research online.”

Syncrude first began looking at capping fluid tailings – a byproduct of mining and extracting bitumen from oil sands ore – in the early 1980s. Open-pit mines throughout the world have created pit lakes to reclaim their mines, but it had never been attempted in the oil sands.

“Syncrude scales up its research and it was no different with this technology,” says Mal, who has worked for Syncrude for 27 years. “Researchers began with bench-scale experiments in the lab. We then moved into field research by establishing seven small tailings test ponds at the Mildred Lake site in 1989. That work continued with the development of four larger test ponds in 1993.”

Those findings convinced Syncrude to move ahead with Base Mine Lake, a former tailings pond in the original Base Mine, located just south of the Mildred Lake upgrading complex west of Highway 63. Syncrude stopped pouring in fluid tailings at the end of 2012 and began adding fresh water from the Beaver Creek Reservoir, and mine process water in 2013. The lake now covers 800 hectares with about 45 metres of fluid tailings. The tailings were capped by five metres of water, and with dewatering the water cap is now up to 12 metres deep. Syncrude, the University of Toronto (Water is in her blood), McMaster University, University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan have conducted research and monitoring on Base Mine Lake to chart the progress in several different areas, including, dewatering of the underlying fluid tailings layer and water chemistry.

“We’re really pleased with what we are seeing.

– Mal Carroll

The fluid tailings are dewatering. Researchers are tracking changes in the water, right down to the microbial level (Micro-organism ‘hunter’ sees signs of progress in Base Mine Lake’s microbial communities),” says Mal. “We’ve made a lot of progress but recognize there’s still work to be done. And going forward, we will continue to have science guide us, just as we have over the previous four decades. And we will continue to share our findings with the public, particularly the Indigenous community members who have visited Base Mine Lake and want to learn more about it. Patents are nice but transparency is very important with this project. We want people to know we are getting this done the right way.”

Growing up in Saskatchewan, Dallas Heisler understood the importance of water from an early age.

“Water is prized given the prominence of farming where I grew up,” says Dallas, Syncrude’s Pit Lake Co-ordinator. “But we also recognize the value of water in the Wood Buffalo region. While agriculture isn’t a major industry here, the lakes, rivers and wetlands are very important. People want them to be protected. That’s no different than back home.”

Syncrude is bringing those values to managing Base Mine Lake, the demonstration project for its water-capped tailings The lake, which covers 800 hectares just south of Syncrude’s Mildred Lake upgrading complex, was a former mine pit prior to being a tailings pond.

“Syncrude completed tailings infilling at the end of 2012 and began importing fresh water from the Beaver Creek Reservoir starting in 2013 so there is now approximately 40 metres of fluid tailings covered with about 10 metres of water,” says Dallas. “Researchers from Syncrude (Medical equipment helps solve Base Mine Lake monitoring mysteries) as well as several universities, including the University of Toronto (Water is in her blood) and the University of Calgary (Micro organism hunter sees signs of progress in Base Mine Lakes microbial communities) have monitored the progress of Base Mine Lake since then. What they’ve found is the fluid tailings are dewatering, which reduces their volume. We’re also seeing promising changes in the water quality, which is in line with the 40 years of previous research we’ve done on water capping.”

Because Base Mine Lake is designed to function as part of a wider reclaimed landscape, it operates as a flow-through system with inflows and outflows similar to natural lakes.

“The inflow comes from the Beaver Creek Reservoir from the south. Right now, the outflow water is returned to Syncrude’s recycle water system,” Dallas says. “While the goal is to eventually have the lake flow out to the Athabasca River, we need to store that water on site at the present time until the federal governments establish regulatory criteria for treated mine water into the environment.”

Syncrude is working on demonstrating two technologies – water-capped tailings technology and coke-treatment (Warren’s innovation will help reclaim tailings ponds faster. – Syncrude) to eventually allow the release of mine water into the environment. Those releases are anticipated to be managed consistently with other releases approved from other industries in Alberta and Canada. Until then, all water – including Base Mine Lake’s outflow – must remain stored on site. “We are operating close to our capacity for mine water and tailings so we are looking at all options as we do not want to build a new tailings facility,” Dallas says. “As a result, we have decided not to bring in fresh water from Beaver Creek Reservoir to Base Mine Lake for this year. It is the responsible thing to do in order to manage our water inventory on site.”

The extensive monitoring program will continue to track changes within the lake through the year to determine how the change in water inflow influences Base Mine Lake’s performance.

We have a solid plan in place.

– Dallas Heisler

“We’ve tied this into all the work being done on the monitoring and research. We’ll continue collecting samples and getting researchers out on the lake and reporting those findings.”

The beauty of Sandhill Fen is more than skin deep. It goes deeper than the beauty of the plants and animals that thrive in its carefully designed wetland valleys and forested hills.

It penetrates some 60 metres below the surface landscape, where a Syncrude-developed technology enabled the use of oil sands mine tailings to fill this former mine pit back up to grade. In fact, the Fen and its surrounding watershed is the oil sands industry’s first example of mine reclamation over a foundation of treated tailings.

The Fen’s creation was part of Syncrude’s multi-pronged research spanning more than 20 years to design ways to construct the landforms that overlie the treated tailings; and foster the growth of peatlands, which are common in the natural landscape of the oil sands region of Northern Alberta. In essence, Syncrude set out to do what had never been done before. Syncrude has now published a Research Synthesis on its two decades of study.

The Fen was built in Syncrude’s former East Mine, an 11.5 sq. kilometre area at the company’s Mildred Lake site north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Mining here ended in 1997 and the 57-hectare Fen watershed was commissioned in 2012, in the northern section of this site.

Before that topography could be created, the empty mine pit needed to be filled up, a process that was completed using Composite Tailings (CT) technology. This gargantuan task took more than a decade.

The CT process takes fluid fine tailings from tailings ponds (a mixture of water and suspended clay material) and mixes it with coagulant to create a slurry that is hydraulically deposited into the pit. The coagulant causes the tailings to quickly consolidate and release water to the surface of the deposit. This water is siphoned off and recycled; what remains is a soft sand-and-clay material. Too soft, for example, to support the heavy construction equipment needed to bring in the sand, soil and other landform materials that will overlie the tailings and allow later-stage reclamation and revegetation.

That meant a capping strategy also had to be developed. Wayne Mimura, Senior Associate Geotechnical Engineer, says, “Capping is a process of constructing a safe trafficable cap or cover over the softer CT deposit to minimize risk for people, animals and equipment. It allows the construction of topographic features such as hummocks (small hills) and swales (lowland areas) for reclamation and vegetation using sand. In particular, we wanted to form the sand cap such that the hills and lowlands would direct surface and ground water in a way that allows wetlands and forests to develop.”

Capping soft tailings deposits is done all over the world; while it hadn’t yet been done in the oil sands industry, there was a body of CT research created by the University of Alberta in the 1980s that Syncrude had supported. Based on that knowledge, a series of small-scale capping tests were initiated to study both hydraulic sand placement (via pipeline) and mechanical sand placement (using large mobile equipment); these tests informed Syncrude’s commercial-scale application in the East Mine, where both techniques were used.

The capping technology creates a surcharge load over the underlying CT deposit. This allows the CT to dewater and gain strength over time, and minimizes the amount of settlement of the closure topography.

“This was the first in the oil sands industry,” says Wayne, who has been working for Syncrude for 32 years.

Successfully capping CT using conventional tailings technology has allowed Syncrude to reclaim and revegetate the land for its intended land uses.

– Wayne Mimura

The technology is now also being transferred to successfully cap and reclaim other soft deposits.”

While R&D work to address the capping issue was underway, the parallel challenge of CT tailings reclamation was also being addressed. This involved engineers working together with natural resource scientists.

“Whenever scientists and engineers are faced with a new challenge, we start with what we know,” says Syncrude ecologist Carla Wytrykush. “Although we had never reclaimed CT before, we had a lot of experience reclaiming overburden landforms and the tailings sand slopes of external tailings facilities. We knew that the CT and sand cap would release pore water to the surface of the land. We also knew that other experts could help us.”

Syncrude involved researchers from several scientific disciplines in the design of the CT reclamation pilot.

By inviting these diverse perspectives on the challenge, the opportunity to create the Fen was identified. Tailings researchers and engineers explained CT and its properties. Wetland ecologists shared how different wetlands form.

We knew we needed to develop CT reclamation practices, and we knew that fen reclamation was important to government and Indigenous stakeholders.

– Carla Wytrykush

Through collaboration, we brought these two challenges together into an incredible opportunity to advance CT and fen reclamation at the same time; the result is the Sandhill Fen Research Watershed.”

Carla says, “The Fen was built at the north end of the East Mine as soon as we could drive on it. Today, after nine years of intensive research and monitoring, it has an incredible story to tell: The wetland supports a range of plants typical of peatlands in the region; we’ve got peat formation; and we’ve got carbon accumulation. Those are huge wins in my mind. It’s informing how we are reclaiming the rest of the East Mine area. This work will be fully completed in the next few years and it will be the first fully reclaimed mine in the oil sands.”

The next time you hear about the Sandhill Fen, think about the beauty enshrined deep beneath the lush, green wetland.

Those interested in the synthesis of Syncrude’s Composite Tailings Capping Knowledge, which includes learnings from the Sandhill Fen Watershed, can download the materials here. The Synthesis includes research summary reports and a bibliography of scientific publications. Syncrude thanks the University of Alberta for making the Synthesis accessible to everyone on their Education and Research Archive online library.

But he’ll say that having a team you can rely on is the real key to improving production.

As the final product touch point, hydrotreaters are critical units in Syncrude’s upgrading process—and ensuring they continue to run optimally is of vital importance. That’s where Shane Bissonnette and the rest of the Hydroprocessing team come in.

A few years into his career as a Millwright with Syncrude, Shane’s keen eye for detail, love for collaborating with his teammates, and hands-on experience working the floor and fixing pump failures made him a natural choice for writing hydroprocessing maintenance procedures.

While Shane may spend long hours alone at his computer, he’s the first to admit that his writing process isn’t a solo mission. “I make a point to not sit in my cubicle all day. I go see my crew. They’re like my second family. I ask them questions. They ask me questions. I hear their frustrations and their excitement over discovering new ways of doing things. And I make sure all that information gets into the instructions and procedures.”

In 2019, Syncrude established the Pump Reliability Excellence Program (PREP). Not surprisingly, Shane was among those named to the PREP team. To say the program has been a success would be a serious understatement.

By consulting with the team on the floor to optimize maintenance procedures, the PREP team helped to more than double the average pump life in 2020. What’s more, pump reliability also dramatically improved last year; this enabled a more reliable hydroprocessing operation with the ability to throughput more product more responsibly.

It’s a team effort; many people contribute, and this makes the work easier.

– Shane Bissonnette

“The collaboration to make our maintenance procedures even better is very rewarding and it shows in the results,” remarks Shane with pride.

It’s true, the proof is in the production. Thanks to our workforce’s commitment to working collaboratively, seeking to understand and embracing a One Team mindset, we made real advancements in process reliability in 2019 and 2020, resulting in increased production of Syncrude Sweet Premium and overall improvement in environmental performance.

Kudos, Syncrude!

For some, the herd at Beaver Creek Wood Bison Ranch are a sight to behold as one of North America’s largest land mammals.

For those who are involved in running the ranch it’s more than a sight. It’s a connection to the land and to the iconic symbol that bison has become for Syncrude.

“The wood bison herd symbolizes Syncrude’s commitment to be a responsible oil sands producer,” says Jesse Hall, Syncrude’s Manager – Tailings and Lease Development. “The herd demonstrates our commitment to reclaiming the land disturbed by our operations. The herd, which is co-managed with the Fort McKay First Nation, also demonstrates our commitment to working with Indigenous communities in the region,” says Jesse whose responsibilities include the ranch.

Every spring those who work at the ranch see a renewal of that commitment when a new batch of calves are born. This year is no exception although calving season was a tad delayed this year, says Brad Ramstead, Ranch Manager.

It’s always great to see new calves being born at the ranch every year.

– Brad Ramstead

It’s an integral part of life here,” says Brad, a wildlife biologist whose history with the ranch dates back to 1991. He’s been managing the herd since 2005. “Right now we have more than 50 calves, a little less than a few other years, but fairly standard. We’re still getting more calves so we don’t know yet what the final number will be.”

In consultation with the Fort McKay First Nation, Syncrude decided to repatriate wood bison to the region as the subspecies was endemic to this region. Thirty wood bison were moved from Elk Island National Park, about 35 kilometres east of Edmonton. The first bison were moved here in February of 1993. This was the beginning and other animals were transported here over the first several years of operation. Elders from the Fort McKay First Nation held a ceremony to bless the herd upon its arrival at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site. The herd was also blessed during the 25th anniversary celebration, in 2018

Currently, the herd consists of 240 animals excluding the newborn calves which remain with their mothers all summer and into the fall. The ranch manages the size of the herd through sales at auctions. Mostly the sales consist of calves, yearlings and two-year olds. At the end of October, the entire herd on site are brought in for their annual round up, says Brad.

“We tag the new calves, conduct herd health checks and administer all annual vaccinations,” he says.

A portion of the herd spends the summer grazing the South Bison Hills area and can often be seen from the Wood Bison Viewpoint off Highway 63. The public is welcome to come and see the bison from the viewpoint.

“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