The Sturgeon Refinery commenced commercial operation in June 2020. The timeline below shows some of the most important milestones from early site preparation in 2012 all the way to full operation in 2020.
As the first refinery built in Canada in over 30 years, the construction, commissioning, start up, and full operation of the Sturgeon Refinery is an important accomplishment for the province and country.
Work accomplished at the Project site to the end of September 2012 includes site survey work, completion of geotechnical borehole investigations and test excavations, removal of certain interfering pre-existing infrastructure, set up of site radio tower pad, and site dewatering and drainage maintenance.
NWR will build and operate a world class bitumen refinery in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, which will add significant value to Alberta’s bitumen resources in a responsible and sustainable manner.
NWR completes expansion of its office space within the Town of Redwater, and will accommodate approx. 45 persons working off the Project site, preparing for facility startup and operations.
Major contractor awarded to regional contractor for site grading. Foundation preparation work commenced for Reactor Vessel assembly building. Pipeline re-route work as well as parking lot and infrastructure construction commenced.
NWR takes delivery of vessel segments and construction begins on vessel assembly building necessary for final assembly. Final welding assembly done on-site.
North West Redwater Partnership (NWR), a partnership between North West Upgrading Inc. (NWU) and Canadian Natural Upgrading Limited (CNUL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Limited (Canadian Natural), celebrates ground-breaking of the Sturgeon Refinery, located in the Alberta Industrial Heartland.
Legacy pipeline interfering with site development relocated to the perimeter of the site and re-commissioned.
Preliminary piling program underway to allow load tests and noise tests for piling program.
Foundation piling completed for the control/administration and firehall/warehouse buildings, and pile caps, grade beam.
Installation of the site orientation and medical complexes completed.
Erection of the site communications tower completed.
Awards for major Engineering Procurement and Construction contracts for various process units made.
NWR’s Health Safety and Environment – ‘GOAL ZERO’ continues with no site lost time injuries.
Contracts in place for all major process units.
Reactor assembly building (RAB) complete and final welding assembly of the reactor segments commence. Final welding of the reactor segments within the RAB continue through 2014.
Areas required for the construction of the Air Separation Unit and the Electrical Substation prepared for turnover to the third-party owner/operators of those facilities.
NWR’s Health Safety and Environment ‘GOAL ZERO’ continues with no site lost time injuries to date.
Contracts in place for the engineering, procurement and construction of all major process units.
Bussing program begins September 15th, transporting workers from designated regional pick up areas to the project site. Program will help reduce personal vehicle travel to the refinery site, reducing traffic congestion pressures, and will expand as the workforce continues to grow.
The large crude Vacuum Tower arrives at site on a heavy platform trailer.
Welding and testing completed on the first of the heavy reactor vessels and moved out of the Reactor Assembly Building (RAB).
NWR’s Health Safety and Environment ‘Goal Zero’ continues, with over 2 million hours spent at site with no lost time injuries.
Major cranes assembled at site to allow for the heavy lifts required to place modules and major equipment.
The 240 kV electrical transmission lines energized.
Environmental gold standard performance continues with more than 98% of construction waste being recycled. Funds received from recycle activities are directed to Community and Charitable Donations causes.
Cracking Reactor set in Hydro-Processing.
61 routes currently in place transporting approximately 2,100 workers to and from the work site.
To date more than 300 modules have been delivered to site with over 230 having been placed on foundations. More than 600 additional modules are standing in various stages of assembly at various module shops. Nearly 3,000 workers are employed at the 10 shops constructing modules for the Refinery.
Environmental gold standard performance continues at site with more than 98% of construction waste being recycled. Go to the Environment pages to learn more.
NWR’s bussing program continues to expand to accommodate increasing ridership. Eighty five routes are currently in place safely transporting over 2,700 workers per day from throughout the Capital region to and from the site. This successful program continues to expand to accommodate growth in ridership.
Environmental gold standard performance continues at site, with more than 98% of construction waste being recycled. Recycled materials include concrete, wood, metal, cardboard/paper, plastic, organics and other waste materials. More than $100,000 of funds received from recycle activities were directed to schools and seniors causes within the Refinery region in 2015 guided by the NWR Community and Charitable Donations Policy.
To date approximately 400 modules have been installed with more than 600 additional modules standing in various stages of assembly at module fabrication shops. Module delivery and assembly into the Refinery will continue throughout 2016. Pipe rack installation continues to advance into all process unit areas of the Refinery with crews working on inter-connecting welds for the modules end-to-end connection. Module and equipment construction, receipt and placement at site will continue through the balance of 2015 and 2016.
Of the more than 1,000 modules being manufactured for the Sturgeon Refinery, more than 70% have been received at the site, and more than 60% of the total having been set in their final locations. All remaining modules are standing at various stages of completion at their manufacturing facilities, and it is targeted that all modules will have been completed and shipped to site by the end of September. At this time, approximately 3,000 workers in Edmonton-area fabrication shops remain engaged in manufacturing modules for the Project. Module and equipment receipt and installation will continue through the balance of 2016 and into 2017 as scheduled. Insulation on process tanks continues, as does cable-pulling for power cables throughout the site.
The process flare stack, the tallest structure for the Sturgeon Refinery site, has now been set and connected to the flare system. Insulation of process tanks and equipment continues. Energization of Powered Equipment Buildings throughout the refinery site continues which allows for the planning of motor bumps to begin. The Integration, Commissioning and Start-Up (ICSU) staff have taken custody of the Raw Water and Fire Water buildings, and have also begun to air blow and ensure cleanliness of the earliest pipes turned over to them from the construction teams.
Community organizations celebrated with NWR at our announcement of first diesel in December at UFA in Morinville. With the majority of the refinery built, it is able to process synthetic crude oil into diesel and other value added products. Using a partially upgraded feedstock such as synthetic crude is part of the commissioning and start up process. This allows for testing and adjustments in the units that are functioning. Once the refinery is fully operational, it will use bitumen feedstock to complete the entire refining process from start to finish.
Since 2011, over 50 million hours have been worked on the project. For the average person who works a regular 40 hour week for 52 weeks a year, it would take over 24,000 years to work that many hours. At peak construction, over 8,000 workers were on site every day, with that number dropping to approximately 2,500 people per day currently. The majority of those are involved in finishing construction activities. Various positions required for long term operations still need to be hired, though most of the 400+ people are already in place.
The refinery is made up of ten large units, each one with a specialized function in the bitumen refining process. All ten units are now constructed, with some completed last year and the final unit completed just these past few weeks. As units are completed, the commissioning process begins for that unit. Commissioning involves checking, inspecting, and testing all components and making any necessary adjustments. Motors are started, temperature and pressure gauges are calibrated, gases such as nitrogen and oxygen are brought in, and final cleaning is completed, among hundreds of other activities.
Since November 2017, the Sturgeon Refinery has been processing synthetic crude oil into diesel and other valuable products as part of the commissioning and start up process. Recently, total diesel production hit 6 million barrels. That’s enough diesel to fuel up 4 million fire trucks or 1 million combines for this fall’s agriculture harvest.
Over 95% of waste was recycled instead of sent to landfills during the construction of the Sturgeon Refinery near Redwater. Some items such as copper wire, scrap metal, and beverage containers were returned for a refund, and those funds were earmarked for community investment. The intent was to be the kind of neighbour the community wants to have in the region by supporting non-profits, schools, and programs while reducing our environmental footprint. All that waste was turned into half a million dollars of worth that can be seen in local playgrounds, food banks, 4-H public speaking, town festivals, library technology, seniors mentoring, youth athlete training, and more.
Our region will get a bit greener and cleaner as ten new local projects receive funding to help reduce waste in our communities. Recipients submitted ideas to the Waste into Worth Challenge hosted by North West Redwater Partnership (NWR). Ten winners were chosen based on creativity, impact on the community, and the ability to turn waste into something of value.
Diesel production from synthetic crude oil continues at the Sturgeon Refinery as the light oil units maintain safe, steady, and reliable operations. The refinery has produced over 7.7 million barrels of diesel since production began a year ago as part of commissioning and start-up.
While the refinery is designed to process bitumen, work remains on two final units in order to operate as designed. The target for processing bitumen in the refinery is year-end. All teams are working hard to achieve this goal knowing it is a key major milestone for the refinery to operate as designed.
NWR reached 1 million hours of recordable injury-free work; that is 197 days and 1,174,469 exposure hours from December 22, 2018, to July 7, 2019.
This milestone is a testament to our health and safety commitment, which is exercised by both NWR and Contractor teams.
Shutdown 2019 is complete and it generated 25 million in wages, 200 inspections, 75% spending in the capital region, 20 different skilled trades and 390,000 hours of employment.
Maintenance shutdown is complete; refinery start-up underway on synthetic crude oil to produce ultra-low sulphur diesel. Additional work is progressing to prep the gasifier unit for start-up in early 2020. Bitumen processing will begin in 2020.
The refinery started up successfully on synthetic crude oil feedstock following the conclusion of the maintenance shutdown this past December. Target production rates have been achieved for ultra sulphur diesel and other products. The start-up of the Gasifier unit also progressed well in February, and the team is monitoring and adjusting as necessary to prepare for bitumen processing which will take place in the coming months.
The criteria for meeting Commercial Operations Date was achieved on May 15, 2020. This means that effective June 1, 2020, the Sturgeon Refinery shall be processing bitumen on behalf of Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission and Canadian Natural Resources Limited through a fee-for-service tolling mechanism under their respective Processing Agreements.