Suncor’s northern Alberta operating sites are joining forces to execute the first regionally-integrated turnaround in 2023 — welcome to Project Wicehtowin. 

Turnarounds are large-scale planned maintenance events that safely isolate, shut down, clean and restart operating units, allowing essential work to take place to maintain the overall health of the operating facility. Employees, contractors and tradespeople supporting this year’s turnaround will fall under Project Wicehtowin’s umbrella.

The name wicehtowin, (pronounced wa-co-to-win), comes from the Cree word for unity. It reflects Suncor’s commitment to reconciliation and the work to progress it. Wicehtowin builds on the successes and learnings of Project Mâmawi, which took place at the Mildred Lake site in 2022. 

“It’s important for the project name to represent our region and help create a connection to the land and communities where we operate. Naming turnaround events is a Syncrude tradition that we’re honoured to extend to the other Suncor-operated assets in the region,” says Darren Lysak, Vice President, Regional Turnarounds. “Including all 2023 turnaround events as part of Wicehtowin reinforces that we’re stronger together — the idea of unity truly speaks to us all.”

A logo with the words “Project Wicehtowin” in English and in Cree underneath. The logo is green, orange and white.
Project Wicehtowin will see spring, summer and fall turnaround execution activities planned throughout 2023.

Suncor’s operating sites in the region have traditionally planned turnaround timing together. Since Suncor became operator of the Syncrude assets, there has been increased collaboration in the region. The operations at Base Plant, Fort Hills, Firebag, MacKay River, Mildred Lake and Aurora can stagger turnaround timelines for years ahead. This leads to increased expertise and efficiencies with people, time and equipment.  

One of the biggest opportunities for full integration resulted from ensuring all sites were using the same systems for work planning and scheduling. According to Tracy Unger, Director, Turnaround – Syncrude, teams worked through these large-scale changes to their up-front processes.  

“With Suncor planning expertise, in 2022 a significant transition to Syncrude’s planning system was undertaken. While it presented several challenges, the organization was aware that it would be beneficial in the long run and it became essential,” says Tracy. “Implementation required the team to learn new methods of working our data. The system change provides increased transparency in our planning readiness, which is crucial for the success of large-scale turnaround projects.”

Many benefits are anticipated with the regional turnaround model and Jody Parker, General Manager Turnaround, Mining and Upgrading, is optimistic about new synergies. 

“Aligning all our regional operating sites as part of a larger turnaround One Team approach will give people a sense of direction and camaraderie,” says Jody. “A significant win with staggering events will help us keep and attract tradespeople from across the region and province. It will also help them move easier from site to site with more consistent work. Where we do have partial overlap or an immediate need, we’ll be able to mobilize resources easier to support each other.”

There are multiple future regional events currently in the planning phase, along with spring, summer and fall turnaround execution activities planned throughout 2023. 

“These maintenance events require a strong focus on safety and a lot of hard work,” says Darren. “Being part of something as big as Project Wicehtowin can help tie us all together. I have your back and you have mine.”