Suncor's Voyageur Upgrader project entails building a third oil sands upgrader (U3) southwest of existing facilities near Fort McMurray, Alberta. It is a key component of Suncor's CDN$20.6-billion plan to have a 550,000-b/d synthetic crude production capacity by 2012--up from its expected 2008 synthetic crude production capacity of 350,000.
The new CDN$4.4-billion U3 facility will feature a sulfur complex that includes the following: two sour water stripper units, one amine unit, three sulfur recovery trains, sulfur degassing, LT SCOT tail gas treating unit,and a sulfur truck loading terminal. It will upgrade approximately 245,000 b/d of bitumen feedstock--primarily from the Firebag in situ oil sands site--into 200,000 b/d of synthetic crude oil. In a May 2008 investor presentation, Suncor stated that it expects U3 to help it maintain a competitive capital cost position based on the economies of scale associated with a 200,000 b/d facility.
The planned synthetic crude product mix for U3 is 85% sweet/diesel and 15% sour. In contrast, the product mixes for the first and second upgraders (U1 and U2, respectively) are 60% sweet/diesel and 40% sour for U1 and 45% sweet/diesel and 55% sour for U2. Once U3 is completed, Suncor expects to have a product mix from all three upgraders of 60% sweet/diesel and 40% sour.
On June 17, 2008, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. reported that Suncor awarded it a contract to provide detailed engineering, procurement, and construction services for the sulfur complex. Two months earlier WorleyParsons announced that its Canadian subsidiary, Colt WorleyParsons, had won an engineering and procurement services related to the upgrader's hydro-treaters.
In January 2009, Suncor's board cut by one-half the company's $6-billion capital spending plan for 2009. One-third of the revised spending plan, or approximately $1 billion, has been earmarked for growth projects. The remaining two-thirds will go to base business operations. As a result of the move, construction on the Voyageur Upgrader and Firebag Stage 3 will be suspended and placed in what the company calls a "safe mode." A restart date for construction and completion for these projects, along with start-up and completion targets for other expansion projects, has not been determined.
According to Suncor, capital growth plans are being reviewed on a quarterly basis in response to current unfavorable market conditions.