Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Syncrude improves waterfowl protection

Unexpected weather and the timing of the 2008 spring bird migration around Calgary resulted in the deaths of 1,600 birds on an oil sands tailings pond about 1 year ago.

Consequently, Syncrude Canada upgraded its waterfowl protection system in advance of this spring’s migration. A joint venture of several oil companies, Syncrude faces charges from the Canadian federal and provincial governments for the waterfowl deaths.

Syncrude Chief Executive Officer Tom Katinas said waterfowl landed on Syncrude’s Aurora settling basin and drowned after getting coated in residual bitumen floating on the water.

A couple of factors set up that scenario. A snowstorm delayed the use of sound cannons that deter birds from landing. The 2008 migration started while natural water bodies remained frozen, making the Aurora settling basin more attractive to landing ducks.

“Everyone at Syncrude understands that our stakeholders expect the very best from us when it comes to protection of wildife,” Katinas said. “We regret what happened last year and recognize that it was completely unacceptable.”

He said the upgraded waterfowl protection system includes a new radar monitoring system for birds and the use of more deterrents.

Syncrude is a joint venture owned by Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., ConocoPhillips Oilsands Partnership II, Imperial Oil Resources, Mocal Energy Ltd., Murphy Oil Co. Ltd., Nexen Oil Sands Partnership, and Petro-Canada Oil & Gas.

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