Photo courtesy Suncor Energy Inc.
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Suncor announces new oil sands cogeneration facility

‘Sustainably minded and technologically progressive’ $1.4 billion investment will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, generate electricity for Albertans

On September 9, 2019, Suncor Energy announced plans to construct a new cogeneration facility at the company’s Oil Sands Base Plant operation, located 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Suncor currently uses petroleum coke, a byproduct of its upgrading operations, to power the facility. Three petroleum-coke boilers generate heat used to make steam, electricity, boiler feed water and hot water for the plant’s extraction and upgrading processes. The cogeneration project, estimated to cost $1.4 billion, will see these aging coke-fired boilers replaced by highly efficient natural gas-fired cogeneration units.

Suncor’s cogeneration facility at its Fort Hills site. New, efficient natural gas cogeneration units will replace coke boilers at Suncor’s Oil Sands Base Plant by 2023. Photo courtesy Suncor Energy Inc.

Surplus electricity, expected to be about 800 megawatts (MW), will be sold to the Alberta power grid—pricing low cost, low-carbon power to residents and businesses across the province.

It’s expected the natural gas cogeneration units will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with steam production by about 25 per cent. Reduction of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions is also anticipated, by about 45 and 15 per cent respectively. The cogeneration units will also eliminate the need for a flue gas desulphurization (FGD) unit, which is currently used to reduce sulphur emissions associated with coke fuel. Decommissioning the FGD unit will reduce the volume of water the company withdraws from the Athabasca River by approximately 20 per cent.

“This project is economically robust, sustainability-minded and technologically progressive,” says Mark Little, Suncor’s president and CEO. “This project generates economic value and provides baseload, low-carbon power, equivalent to displacing 550,000 cars from the road — approximately 15 per cent of vehicles currently in the province of Alberta.”

The new cogeneration units will be operational in 2023.