September 25, 2006

Syncrude determines cause of odours from new oil sands FGD unit

CALGARY, ALTA-Syncrude recently introduced bitumen feed into the new coker 8-3 as part of a phased approach to return its Stage 3 oil sands processing facilities to operation. The company is moving incrementally toward full production in order to allow for regular monitoring and testing of the newly-installed flue gas desulfurization (FGD) and other units. The resumption follows a shutdown of the new FGD and coker units ordered in May by Alberta Environment because of complaints about odours from residents of Fort McKay and Fort McMurray (EcoWeek May 22, 2006). An investigation has since determined that ammonia being used in the FGD was the main cause of the odours. An analysis indicated that the ammonia produced at the Syncrude operation contains impurities, including odour-causing compounds. As a result, Syncrude has arranged to purchase ammonia supplies to support the operation of the FGD unit on an interim basis while it develops a long-term strategy for using the ammonia it produces on-site. Testing of the FGD unit using purchased ammonia has been carried out since late July with good results. Although buying ammonia from outside sources will cost the company about $3 million per month, it will allow the Stage 3 facilities to re-start and will help prevent odours and realize the FGD's environmental benefit of virtually eliminating sulfur dioxide emissions from the expansion facilities.

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