We are committed to producing the high-quality fuels and other products critical to driving Colorado’s economy safely and in an environmentally conscious manner. This commitment is shared across our workforce of more than 500 committed and talented Colorado residents, including more than 250 union employees.
We monitor the air and water and are dedicated to continuing to provide information for the community on these issues. More information on these processes can be found in the sections below.
In response to community feedback, we voluntarily launched an enhanced community air monitoring program in 2021. Air monitoring is the measurement of ambient air pollution levels in a particular area using various technologies and analysis methods.Explore community air monitoring
On January 1, 2023, we launched a fenceline monitoring program. Fenceline air monitoring systems provide air quality information to the public about levels of covered air toxics at or near a facility’s boundaries.More information about fenceline monitoring
Air emissions regulations
We have multiple reporting requirements regarding air emissions. Depending upon the specific rule, regulation, or permit limit, the refinery may be required to notify CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Response Center (NRC), Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), or the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC). Reporting is required whenever a permit limit is exceeded or whenever a rule requires notification to a certain agency, such as exceeding a reportable quantity in 24 hours. Some notifications are made right away, while others are typically reported the following business day.
Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. is authorized to discharge wastewater and storm water to Sand Creek in accordance with the requirements of discharge permits issued by the Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) under the Colorado Discharge Permit System (CDPS). Permits are typically renewed on a five-year cycle. Effluent limits and permit requirements can and do change during each renewal cycle.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that include PFOA, PFOS, and many other chemicals. PFAS chemicals have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries throughout the world, including as a key chemical ingredient used in firefighting foams at refineries, petrochemical plants, airports, and Department of Defense facilities.
At the request of CDPHE, Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. has conducted testing for PFOS/PFOA at the Commerce City Refinery which confirms the presence of these chemicals in the groundwater below the refinery. Recent testing also indicates the presence of PFOS/PFOA in treated groundwater that is discharged from our outfall to Sand Creek - this water is discharged in accordance with a permit issued by CDPHE.
We believe the presence of PFOS/PFOA at the Commerce City Refinery is due to the historical use of Class B firefighting foam, typical of an industrial site like ours. Suncor is working closely with CDPHE, including testing of additional locations near the refinery. The resulting data indicates PFOS/PFOA compounds are present in varying levels of concentration in Suncor groundwater samples, as well as in nearby surface waters (Sand Creek and South Platte River) both upstream and downstream of the Commerce City Refinery. We are closely following the actions being taken by the EPA and CDPHE to address the presence of PFOS/PFOA.
In response to the Colorado Firefighting Foams Control Act, we have replaced our inventory of older firefighting foam with a new foam that complies with the U.S. EPA’s PFOA Stewardship Program-2015 Requirements. We are working through our plan to safely dispose of the older foam through a third-party vendor.
The Suncor Emergency Response Team does not currently use any firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals during our on-site firefighting training events. If any firefighting foam is needed in an actual emergency, Suncor will make all reasonable attempts to keep the material on site through containment or retention to prevent the migration to surface, ground, or storm water.
Sand Creek is a body of water located near the Commerce City Refinery. We actively monitor and protect Sand Creek by using a boundary wall along the water line and ground water monitoring wells.
In the summer of 2021, the refinery is replacing the existing underground barrier wall and building a second, parallel barrier wall. These enhancements will improve conditions at the boundaries of the refinery.
Wastewater treatment plant
Many industrial processes, including petroleum refining, use water. Our Commerce City Refinery uses both city water and collected groundwater for steam production and cooling, as well as to wash out the natural contaminants in crude oil, like salts and minerals, to prevent corrosion in our processing units.
Much of this water is recycled for reuse at our facility, and the remaining portion is treated and discharged to Sand Creek, under a permit issued by CDPHE. In September 2012, stricter compliance criteria were set on the refinery discharge water, effective in January 2018. To meet the new criteria, the Commerce City Refinery commissioned a $65 million USD upgrade to our existing wastewater treatment facility. The upgrade was completed in December 2017 and leverages a unique technology called membrane ultrafiltration to treat and filter the water. Our facility is one of the first in North America to use this technology in treating refinery wastewater streams.
Membrane ultrafiltration removes particles from wastewater down to approximately 0.08 microns in size, which is about 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Ongoing and future construction phases will enable us to strive to continuously improve our environmental performance as well as meet increasingly tightening regulations related to wastewater treatment and discharge. At peak construction, the project employed 180 craftspeople working around the clock. The construction of the project created business for local construction companies, fabricator shops, and local suppliers of concrete, steel, electrical and control, as well as room and board for travelers.
The community surrounding the Commerce City Refinery may hear various types of alarms. The alarm system is tested every day at 12 p.m. and is used any time an incident occurs as part of our emergency management procedures. Alarm protocols are in place to alert operations teams to assess the situation and take the appropriate actions to address it. These protocols align with our best practices regarding escalating quickly, intervening safely, and de-escalating as required. Any alarms heard by the community are meant for the refinery personnel and do not require action from the public in all cases. As part of our new Refinery Notifications system, subscribers may also get a notification when an alarm sounds. Click here to learn more about this system.
In the case of an emergency that requires immediate action by the community, we will continue to use the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) through Adams County to notify the community surrounding the refinery.
There are four types of alarms you may hear as a community member near the refinery. The alarms will state the incident type and location:
The refinery routinely investigates the causes of various operational events that occur at the facility and compiles reports based on the findings of the investigation. View available reports below:
Reportable event summaries
The refinery complies with many air, water, and hazardous materials-related reporting requirements, including reports required by our permits.
For detailed information on our permits, see the Air and Water sections above.
We submit reports to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at different times depending on applicable requirements, but you can now view a monthly summary of what we have submitted in each category:
To view individual reports and other information that has been published on the Colorado Department of Health and Environment's website, visit: