Suncor begins Steepbank EIA, plans consultation on Sarnia ethanol plantSuncor Energy has initiated an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on its proposal to expand its Steepbank Mine in order to replace ore production whose depletion is expected before the end of this decade. The proposed oil sands development would cover approximately 2,600 hectares across the Steepbank River and northeast of Suncor's existing mining operations.
The EIA will include mitigation plans to address potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. It will also specifically address issues related to the crossing of the Steepbank River. As part of its development plan, Suncor will commit to incorporate the mine extension into its ongoing reclamation program, designed to return the area to a self-sustaining landscape after oil sands development is complete.
Capital development costs are currently estimated at $350 million. The company hopes to obtain regulatory approval for the project by the end of 2006 and to begin construction in 2007. Operation would begin in 2010, with a projected lifespan of 11 years.
In Sarnia, meanwhile, subsidiary Suncor Energy Products last week said it will renew and expand community consultations on its plan to build a $120-million ethanol plant on land in the Sarnia area. The facility, similar to those recently built in the United States, would have a production capacity of more than 200 million litres per year of ethanol, which would be made from regionally-grown corn and blended into Sunoco gasolines. (Suncor Energy Products owns Sunoco retail stations in Ontario.) These facilities use state-of-the-art technology to produce ethanol safely and efficiently. Suncor's planned facility will also incorporate thermal oxidizer technology for emission scrubbing and odour reduction.
The company has applied to Natural Resources Canada for project funding under the federal government's ethanol program. A decision on funding is expected later this month. Suncor will consult with members of the Sarnia community over the next few months. Open house meetings, to be scheduled in the near future, are intended to involve the community in project planning, and will help define any issues to be addressed before Suncor makes its final decision. If Suncor receives final approvals, construction would begin by mid-2004 and be complete by mid-2006.
More information is available from Neil Levine, at Suncor Energy Products, 416/733-7224.