Suncor’s non-producing assets (NPAs) group is responsible for more than 72,000 assets. This includes anything and everything from roads and bridges, to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, to gas and diesel pipelines. 

These assets vary by age, engineering, technology, functionality, operability, and maintainability. Given that broad scope, it’s not hard to imagine the complexity of keeping each of these running smoothly for safe and reliable operations. 

Is it really broken if you don’t know about it?

The name of the game is preventative maintenance. The challenge this group faces is that without continuous physical inspections, they don’t have a clear picture of how assets are performing. This increases the difficulty of planning a proactive response.

On any given day, maintenance crews carry out system checks and observations to get ahead of any potential problems. With many assets in remote areas of Suncor’s operations, crews are generally not available for emergencies if they receive an assignment.

“We needed a solution to address our need for real-time information, with the ability to integrate legacy systems, current technology, and be future proof,” says Ravi Bhyrajois, Automation Engineer, NPA Reliability.

For the last three years, Suncor has been using the Integrated Operation & Control Centre (IOCC); a third-party monitoring solution to integrate all NPAs in our Base Plant mine, Firebag, and Fort Hills operations.

As its name suggests, the IOCC is the brains of the operation and a master controller. It receives signals from equipment sensors and gives a dashboard view of everything that’s going on. “From the heating systems in our lunch trailers to our emergency generators and air quality monitoring systems- we now have eyes, ears, and virtual hands-on almost everything,” says Ravi.

The IOCC provides live monitoring, early warning, failure detection, and system controls across several thousand assets distributed throughout Suncor’s regional operation sites. Operators use this information to keep a 24/7 track of critical systems and provide the details needed for a prompt and accurate response to mitigate issues.

A male workers in a control room at a Suncor site
Suncor uses the Integrated Operation and Control Centre to monitor all non-producing assets (e.g., roads, bridge, HVAC systems, etc.) at its Northern Alberta sites.

“The IOCC operator can give technicians specific details such as the exact location of the potential problem – which could be as small as a furnace fan in a building, to the nature of the problem, like a water leak in the fire prevention system. They can also share engineering design documents to help with planning the mitigation,” says Ravi.  “The best part is, it doesn’t matter if the equipment is old, or the latest digitally-enabled system.”

Smiles all around

With improvements in safety, reliability, environmental performance, and cost reductions, this data-informed system is a clear winner. 

“We’re very happy with how the system is performing,” says Ravi. “This is truly operational excellence in action.”