Wastewater “comes clean” at Commerce City refinery

Commerce City refinery hosted Adams County and Commerce City government leaders for a tour of our facility

Many industrial processes use water, from wood and metal manufacturing to paper and food production –petroleum refining is no different. Our Commerce City refinery uses both city water and collected groundwater for steam production and cooling, as well as to wash out the natural contaminants in crude oil, like salts and minerals, to prevent corrosion in our processing units.

Much of this water is recycled for reuse at our facility, and the remaining portion is treated and discharged to local waterway, Sand Creek, under a permit issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). In September 2012, stricter compliance criteria were set on the refinery discharge water, to be effective in January 2018. To meet the new criteria, the Commerce City refinery commissioned a $65 million upgrade to our existing wastewater treatment facility. The upgrade was completed in December 2017 and leverages a unique technology called membrane ultrafiltration to treat and filter the water. Our facility is one of the first in North America to use this technology in treating refinery wastewater streams.

“Membrane ultrafiltration removes particles from wastewater down to approximately 0.08 microns in size,” explains April Maestas, director of engineering at Suncor. “That’s about 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.”

“The technology applied through this project has allowed us to go above and beyond what was required of us,” continued April. “Ongoing and future construction phases will enable us to strive to continuously improve our environmental performance as well as meet increasingly tightening regulations related to wastewater treatment and discharge.”

At peak construction the project employed 180 craftspeople working around the clock. The construction of the project created business for local construction companies, fabricator shops, and local suppliers of concrete, steel, electrical and control, as well as room and board for travelers.