Just like the Bat phone to the caped crusader, our Firebag in situ site has a direct line to the provincial power grid.
Electricity underpins almost every aspect of our modern lives. Managing and operating the power grid is complex and comes with a lot of responsibility.
The provincial grid’s system controllers continuously monitor demand across the province and match it with available supply. When there are unplanned imbalances between supply and demand, electricity generators like Suncor are paid to “standby” to provide emergency power. These are known as Ancillary Services.
At Firebag, we generate low-cost, low GHG-intensity electric power for our operations through cogeneration. Any excess electricity we produce and don't need for our operations is delivered to Alberta's electricity grid.
Firebag is also always ready to answer the call for backup. With 10 minutes’ notice, we can provide emergency backup power to assist in rebalancing the Alberta grid.
Going full throttle
So how does Firebag do it? Well, it goes full throttle.
Firebag immediately switches to a special ‘peak firing’ mode. Peak firing provides short-term increases in power generation beyond normal production levels. It can temporarily provide enough electricity to power up to 40,000 additional homes while in this special state.
With great power comes great responsibility
“If you’re part of the electricity grid’s safety net, you’ve got to be there when it counts. Enabling peak firing across Firebag’s five separate turbine systems takes critical time which plant operators may not have,” says Tyler Drever, Power Trader, Downstream.
To ensure Firebag is a reliable failsafe, Suncor operations and trading staff designed and deployed a new turbine management system known as the Master Load Controller (MLC). The MLC is a custom central control system capable of monitoring all five turbines. It can predict their power outputs as conditions change in real-time and will automatically respond to changes in grid stability.
“The MLC system enables operators to respond to emergency dispatches with a single command, simultaneously directing a plant-wide response. It simplifies the complex task of power dispatch and meeting our compliance obligations with the grid operator,” says Tyler.
In 2021, Suncor’s Firebag site provided approximately four per cent of all active power contingency reserves ̶ the most of any natural gas-fired facility in the province.
To learn more about how cogeneration works at our operations, watch this short, animated video.