Shell Canada refinery starts $120-million turnaround

The Shell Canada refinery near Corunna. Tara Jeffrey

Tara Jeffrey

Shell Canada’s Sarnia Manufacturing Centre (SMC) is about to begin one of its largest ever turnarounds.

“It’s a big first step for us at SMC,” turnaround manager Jason Woodward told St. Clair Township council recently.

“We wanted to move away from a lot of small events — where we disrupt the community and our neighbours every year — to performing two large events in a six-year span.”

A turnaround is a scheduled event in which a refinery’s units are shut down, upgraded, and restarted.

The $120-million, three-month spring project begins mid-March and involves 1,000 staff and contract workers logging about 350,000 hours, Woodward said.

“We’re keeping as much of the investment in local communities as possible,” he said.

About 700 craftspeople are being hired through local union halls, and materials and services purchased from local vendors and pre-fabrication shops.

“We always try to buy local as much as we can, Woodward said.

The project also involves setting up one of the world’s largest cranes, a Mammoet 1,600-ton capacity PTC 35. It features a boom the length of a hockey rink, and requires six weeks and 115 shipping containers worth of material to build.

“We need that crane for a number of lifts we’re doing at one of our units,” he said, the largest of which will weight half-a-million pounds.

Woodward said one highlight of the project is the site’s ‘Goal Zero’ initiative, first launched in 2018 as a way to give back to the community.

“We set aside $1,000 for every incident-free day in our turnaround, and pick a charity that we’d like to support,” he said.

“The one we’ve chosen for 2022 is Access Open Minds in Sarnia. This one is near and dear to my heart,” he said of the new youth mental health facility set to open this summer, noting his own family struggled to access services during the pandemic.

“Our donation, we’re told, will support 200-plus individual treatment cases. So we’re really happy about being involved with this charity.”

Residents can expect to see increased flaring — especially during the shutdown and startup process, Woodward said.

“We’re looking at our flare management process to try to minimize that flaring as much as we can. Part of that flare management is communication to our local neighbours.”

Lambton OPP and Sarnia Police will also be on hand to help deal with the increased traffic, he said.

“It’s an interesting, unique situation that we are a refinery that sits in the middle of a community, and we want to make sure that we recognize that; and want to continue to have a positive relationship with our neighbours.”