Syncrude conducts cold startup of Mildred Lake steam systems

Syncrude Canada Ltd. said it conducted a cold startup of its steam systems at the Mildred Lake oil sands upgrading complex for the first time since the plant was commissioned in 1977-78.

The plant, 40 km north of Fort McMurray, had been shut in May due to the Alberta wildfires (OGJ Online, June 10, 2016). After weeks of planning, four critical steam systems were recommissioned by early June.

“Despite challenging personal situations, the teams asked tough questions, thought through every contingency, and executed the overall work plan perfectly,” said Stephen Pocsai, utilities and offsites manager.

A multidisciplinary team of more than 130 people worked through a phased approach that included flushing long lines of all residual water.

Steam is used in almost every step at Mildred Lake, from the front-end of extraction all the way through the upgrader.

With Syncrude’s steam capacity available, the focus shifted to supporting commodity demands for the rest of the startup activities. “Significant value has been gained in the learning for employees as we restart the operation from a full shutdown,” said Bruce Durnford, hydroprocessing business team manager. “We are going through an event that last happened close to four decades ago—starting up one of the most complex upgrading facilities in the world.”

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