Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. owns and operates the Commerce City Refinery. The refinery is comprised of three plants from two refineries, which Suncor acquired in 2003 and 2005. We are the only facility of this kind in Colorado and the largest in the Rocky Mountain Region, processing 98,000 barrels-per-day, and contributing $2.5 billion USD to the state’s economy annually, along with significant tax revenues in the Commerce City area.
We pride ourselves in keeping our operations local – including our products, workforce, and community initiatives. We purchase crude from the Denver-Julesburg Basin, process it in Commerce City, and sell nearly 95% of our products – including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and paving asphalt – within the state. As a result, we are Colorado’s primary producer of paving-grade asphalt for roads and a major supplier of fuel to the state’s Western Slope via rail and truck. Our refinery is also a key supplier to the Denver International Airport, where we provide about a third of its jet fuel through a direct pipeline.
We employ more than 500 Coloradans between our refinery, corporate office in downtown Denver, and pipeline operations, including more than 250 union jobs. We also support more than 5,000 indirect jobs within Colorado generated through our business. This local cycle supplies fuel and materials needed to keep up with Colorado’s booming economy, while lowering costs for consumers.
Through our community investment efforts, we prioritize contributing to the communities where our employees live and work, and are active supporters of more than 50 local, non-profit, Commerce City and Denver-based organizations and initiatives, including the Suncor Boys & Girls Club in Commerce City, the Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership, and Mile High United Way. Our employees are active in the community through our volunteer program, SunCares, contributing thousands of collective volunteer hours in the community every year.
We’re conscious of our environmental impacts and continue to be willing and active supporters of the state’s efforts to transition to a cleaner energy portfolio. That’s why we have invested over $1.3 billion in improvements since purchasing the refinery, spending $300 - $400 million since 2015 alone in capital upgrades and investments in new technology. We understand that we have an important role to play in putting Colorado on the path to a low-carbon energy system.
To learn more about our commitment to generating economic growth, promoting social well-being, and minimizing environmental impacts in all areas we operate in, visit the Living our Purpose site.
Normal Refinery Operations
We place safety above all else at the Commerce City Refinery, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Some activities that are part of normal, day-to-day operations at the refinery include:
- Flaring: The flames that are sometimes visible at the top of the refinery’s pipe stacks are an important, safe, and regulated part of the refining process. Simply put, flaring relieves pressure. Flaring occurs when pressure from the refinery’s operations builds up and needs to be released, including during weather-related events, maintenance, or operational changes. There are also relief valves throughout the refinery that open and vent into the flare system if the pressure becomes too high to ensure that the system safety is maintained.
- Steam: Steam is generated on-site through various operations and utilized throughout the refinery to keep processes warm and power equipment. At all times, the refinery maintains an excess supply of steam during normal operations to account for steam demand. Excess steam can be seen at various venting locations across the refinery. During cooler weather, condensed water vapor clouds from cooling towers can also be seen.
- Fire training: As part of our safety and emergency preparedness training, Suncor’s Emergency Response Team conducts fire training each year. This training happens at our on-site fire training grounds and typically produces large flames and thick smoke. Suncor will notify stakeholders, regulators, and the community in advance of each training event. The Emergency Response Team at the refinery uses water for this type of training; firefighting foam is not used during these on-site training events.
- Increased maintenance activity: Proactive measures to drive safe and environmentally-sound operations at the refinery are ongoing, and it is normal to see cranes, scaffolding, or individuals working at tall heights. Every two to three years, Suncor will shut down portions of the refinery to conduct work that can only be executed while offline. These events, called a turnaround, take two to three years to plan and can bring hundreds of additional workers on site. Although this work can result in an increase in flaring, noise, and traffic, we take steps to keep these disruptions to a minimum.
In early 2020, Suncor Energy (U.S.A) Inc. began a process to improve the way we communicate with the surrounding community about incidents at the refinery. We did this in response to feedback from the community, as well as to meet the requirements of an agreement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Colorado House Bill 20-1265. Beginning on January 1, 2021, we will use the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to notify the community about hazardous conditions or emergent events that threaten lives or property. Throughout 2021, we will add ways to inform the community about other types of incidents and emissions exceedances, including those that may seem alarming, but are not emergencies that require immediate action.
Incidents below were thoroughly investigated to identify root causes, with actions taken to prevent recurrence. They have been archived for ease of viewing.
With more than 500 employees based in the Denver region, Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. takes our role as a good neighbor very seriously. We are a part of the community and are committed to investing in programs that support projects and initiatives that have a real impact.
In the fall of 2020, we reached out to the community to get feedback about how we can better share information and data. Learn more about what we heard from hundreds of residents and the steps we’re taking to be a better neighbor. We will continue listening to, and investing in, our community.
We take our responsibility, as the state’s only refining facility, very seriously.
The refinery operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Learn more about activities that are part of normal, day-to-day operations including flaring, steam, fire training, and maintenance activities.
Can't find what you're looking for? Take a look at our frequently asked questions about the Commerce City Refinery.
Suncor Energy Inc. has numerous direct and indirect subsidiaries, partnerships and joint arrangements (“affiliates”), which own and operate assets and conduct activities in different jurisdictions. The terms ‘‘we’’, ‘‘our’’, ‘‘Suncor’’, or ‘‘the company’’ are used herein for simplicity of communication and only mean that there is an affiliation with Suncor Energy Inc., without necessarily identifying the specific nature of the affiliation. The use of such terms in any statement herein does not mean that they apply to Suncor Energy Inc. or any particular affiliate, and does not waive the corporate separateness of any affiliate. For further clarity, Suncor Energy Inc. does not operate or own assets in the U.S.