Spills and releases - Suncor's 2013 Report on Sustainability

Spills & releases - Suncor's 2013 Report on Sustainability

Spills and releases - Suncor's 2013 Report on Sustainability

Spills and releases - Suncor's 2013 Report on Sustainability

View the latest Report on Sustainability

Spills and releases

Suncor actively manages spills, which can include such things as crude oil, refined products, produced salt water and chemicals.

Spill events are recorded and thoroughly investigated. Root cause is determined and remedial actions are implemented to minimize risk and the chance of recurrence. We recognize that spills of any substance that may impact the environment should be treated with a consistent focus.

Spill reporting and emergency response plans

At Suncor, there are systems in place to inspect and audit facilities that are used to produce and store oil and other products. We have emergency response plans at all our locations, including:

  • upstream and offshore facilities
  • refineries and other downstream operations
  • distribution terminals
  • our network of service stations

Read more about offshore drilling and production safety

In addition to our own internal response capability, we are a participating member in a number of response organizations, including:

We have a strong culture of reporting loss events; however, growth and the increasing complexity of our operations mean that we must continue to improve reporting practices, strengthen mitigation efforts and reduce the number and volume of spills.

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Offshore spill prevention international

Suncor's Terra Nova offshore oil operation has been developed to ensure safe and environmentally responsible operations. Measures are incorporated in the design of the floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, and operating practices feature what we would consider to be world-class standards.

Some of the spill prevention features and initiatives used at the production and drilling facilities found in the Terra Nova field include:

  • a double-hulled and ice-strengthened FPSO vessel
  • emergency shutdown equipment located throughout facilities
  • third-party review and assessment of facilities
  • extensive training and competency assessment
  • regular tracking of icebergs
  • accurate weather prediction

Learn more about our Exploration & Production operations

Raising the bar: North America Onshore’s approach to spills

Our North America Onshore (NAO)* business actively promotes a zero spills approach through our nothing hits the ground philosophy. Because of this philosophy, detailed spill prevention assessments are included in pre-job safety meetings. We apply Suncor's stop & think approach as we ask, "What could go wrong?" when it comes to potential releases from routine or maintenance work we are about to undertake.

When releases do occur, NAO is rigorous about reporting loss of containment (LOC) events in Suncor's incident management system. No matter how small, intense internal focus is placed on these LOC events, and they are tracked in monthly stewardship reports. All identified LOCs, whether to land, water or air, must be fully investigated by operations personnel and corrective actions implemented. These investigations are also tracked. It is NAO's belief that this focused approach leads to the prevention of future events especially events with an environmental impact.

Corrective actions can range in complexity. For example, it could be as simple as placing secondary containment structures under high-risk processes to prevent environmental impact from potential future failures. Or it could involve complex failure analyses to determine whether commonly utilized components have unacceptable performance rates and new solutions need to be pursued.

Suncor believes these types of activities will help us to make continuous improvements and reduce the occurrence of environmental reportable releases (ERRs) from NAO facilities. These are releases that regulators deem significant enough to have potential environmental impact and that producing companies must immediately report. In 2009, NAO had 38 ERRs; by 2012, this number had dropped to 15.

Read more about NAO

* In April 2013, Suncor announced an agreement to sell the conventional portion of its natural gas business in western Canada. Excluded from the sale are the majority of Suncor's unconventional natural gas properties in British Columbia and the company's Wilson Creek, Alberta unconventional oil assets.

2012 – 2013 spills and releases incidents

Suncor considers any unintended release or spill to be unacceptable. Unfortunately, as reported in the Operational Issues section of this report, such incidents do occur, including the offshore spill of a synthetic-based drilling mud (to which Suncor pleaded guilty in October 2012) and the unintended release of diluted process affected water from our Oil Sands plant in March 2013 following a break in a frozen line.

We take all such incidents  seriously, and we are deeply disappointed when we fall short of our own performance expectations and those of our stakeholders. In addition to emergency response measures to halt any unintended release or spill as quickly as possible, we follow up with regulators and our own investigations to learn how such incidents occurred and to implement steps to help prevent future occurrences. We work to keep our stakeholders informed on lessons learned and how we are responding.

Review our 2012 — 2013 operational issues