Drivers heading past the Sturgeon Refinery may have noticed larger flaring than usual during the past couple weeks.
Startup activities have been underway at the refinery since construction wrapped up in May. Commissioning will bring all 10 units at the plant online in various stages, with components in each unit being inspected and tested and then adjusted as needed. Commissioning of some units is already complete.
According to Vanessa Goodman, manager of external relations at the Northwest Redwater Partnership, flaring is a normal part of starting up a refinery.
The noticeably larger flares, Goodman said, are part of the testing process – steps that include making sure that units are connected properly to flares and that the flare system will work correctly when the refinery is operational.
“And within the commissioning and startup process and switching over the feedstock from synthetic crude oil to bitumen,” she added, “some of those changes in the refining process from that switchover actually necessitate the need to use that flare."
The refinery uses a plan approved by regulatory authorities to monitor and analyze its flaring activity.
Goodman said that the refinery wants to ensure the public stays informed about flaring or anything else they see or smell near the plant.
"One of the ways we do that is through the NRCaer update line. And that's a 24/7 phone line that anyone from the public can call to find out what's going on with industry activity.”
People can call the line at 1-866-653-9959 for current information on alarms, odours, smoke, prolonged flaring or other industrial activities in the region they may be wondering about.