Neighbours across Highway 63 for more than five decades, Syncrude and Suncor got to know a lot about each other as they built the oil sands industry and community together.

One year after formally joining together when Suncor took over as Syncrude’s operator, building on that next-door knowledge has unlocked tremendous value for both organizations.

While not everybody can see the gains made over the past year, they’ve made a real impression on Sandy Martin, Senior Vice President, Regional Services.

“Both teams had done a lot of work ahead of the integration to identify opportunities and lay the foundation for what would happen when we joined together,” says Sandy. “What we didn’t necessarily realize was how much value we could find by adopting the best work processes from both teams, such as Prompt the Pause. This is a Syncrude safety tool that allows anybody on a team, from an apprentice to a journeyman, to stop work and intervene if they see a potential risk in the task being performed.”

Regionalizing services also paid immediate dividends with turnarounds, the large annual planned maintenance events that take place at every oil sands site across the region.

“Having a regional group that can plan those turnarounds in an integrated program has brought about major gains because they take place annually at Syncrude, Base Plant, Fort Hills and other sites. We’ve been able to partner with the asset teams to maximize production at each site and reduce the peak workforce required in the region. That was crucial this year as labour availability was a real challenge,” says Sandy. “It has also helped us more effectively manage the scope. For example, the regional and Syncrude asset teams were able to work together to take a target and risk-based approach to reduce the Project Mamawi hours. This regional approach for turnarounds has been a massive win.”

Applying the same regional model to other areas, such as managing projects and maintenance services, have also earned rewards.

“There are common services used across all of our sites in the region, such as scaffolding, insulating, general labour and janitorial. We’ve generated efficiencies by standardizing delivery of these services at all of our operating areas,” he says.

Integration also increased the benefits delivered by the Interconnect Pipeline (ICP) between Mildred Lake and Base Plant. The project has two bi-directional pipelines that carry feedstock and other commodities between the two sites from Suncor to Syncrude to improve operational flexibility.

“The team at Syncrude really embraced unlocking the constraints and looking at the big picture with different sites around the region. The ICP has generated substantial incremental revenues by optimizing the products delivered,” Sandy says. “They deserve huge kudos and it reflects the open attitude at Syncrude in approaching integration and supporting regional services. It could have worked out much differently, but the team jumped in with full support.”

And as the organization celebrates its one-year anniversary of coming together, Sandy sees the willingness to see the big picture as a big part of the integration’s success.

“This is a team sport and everybody at Suncor and Syncrude is playing. That’s why we are stronger together.”