Shell Canada Limited
Scotford, Alberta, Canada

Shell Canada - Athabasca Oil Sands Dry Bitumen Plant

Shell Canada Ltd. awarded Fluor the engineering, procurement, and construction of the Primary Process Units (PPU) of its Athabasca Oil Sands Downstream Project, located in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.

This facility has a design capacity of 155,000 barrels of dry bitumen per calendar day. It also includes a crude vacuum unit and an 80,000 BPSD, two-train LC-Finer hydrocracker. In addition to the primary process units, the project includes hydrogen production, a sulfur block, and offsites and utilities.

Fluor was also responsible for EPC of associated modifications to Shell's adjacent Scotford Refinery in a joint venture arrangement. The largest scope of the Athabasca Oil Sands Downstream Project (AOSD) is the downstream portion, or the Scotford Upgrader.

The AOSD is the world's largest heavy oil upgrader project with a $1.1 billion award to Fluor. The Upgrader, based on hydroconversion technology, processes bitumen from the Muskeg River Mine into high quality, low-sulfur, light synthetic crude oil.

Client's Challenge

The project includes new upgrades, housed within the Primary Process Units (PPU), a hydrogen manufacturing plant, a sulfur complex, utilities and offsite facilities, and modifications to the existing refinery. It will convert bitumen, a thick crude oil mixed with sand, transported via pipeline from the Muskeg River Mine in Fort McMurray, Alberta, into synthetic light crude oil that is high quality and low sulfur.

Fluor played a key role in the construction management of the entire project. Fluor's early project planning of design, procurement, and field operations helped the Client achieve its aggressive goals. The construction teams were involved at the beginning of the project and were able to realize significant schedule improvements.

On March 25, 2003, the Athabasca Oil Sands - Scotford Upgrader was producing synthetic crude oil.

Fluor's Solution

Fluor was responsible for the engineering, procurement, construction and precommissioning of the Primary Process Units (PPU), one of the largest and most complex components of the project. The vacuum tower in the PPU is one of the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, at more than 157 feet in height.

Logistically the project was fast-tracked. The movement of both equipment and people was extremely critical to the success of the project. The Fluor team used MaterialManager® to expedite the material sequencing. This allowed the Fluor Team to deliver the pipe rack modules three weeks ahead of schedule and within budget for the PPU portion.

Fluor installed and welded out 1,000 to 1,200 spools per week. At peak, it was more than 1,600 spools. In total, 14,800 piles and 52,000 spools were used. The scaffolding to support the vacuum tower was erected, used to install insulation, and dismantled in 34 days.

There were 10,500 workers at peak construction. Over 23 million direct field work hours were expended. Fluor needed to efficiently get workers to and from the remote site. Fluor used over 130 buses to transport about 65 percent of the workers each day.

Weather was also a factor. Temperatures often dipped to minus 30 degrees Celsius.


A mentoring program was initiated, whereby experienced workers taught more than 1,000 apprentices about safety and other important aspects of working on a large industrial site. Also project-specific health, safety and environmental training was available for 1,200 supervisors and managers. The program won a “Best Practice” award from the Alberta Construction Association.

Significant safety milestones were achieved, including Safety Excellence Awards for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 million safe work hours. Over 23 million direct field work hours were expended.

Athabasca and Fluor were recognized by the Shell Canada President's Safety Award and the Shell Canada Contractor Safety Management Award.