Tailings facility dam safety review

About this project

Suncor Energy Inc.
completion date

Suncor Energy Inc. (Suncor) operates and develops a few oil sands mining and processing facilities near Fort McMurray, Alberta. These sites have several ponds and embankment dam structures that provide containment for tailings and process water—some of which are registered as extreme consequence dams under Alberta’s Water (Ministerial) Regulation. The regulation requires that a dam safety review (DSR) be undertaken every five years for "Very High" and "Extreme" consequence structures. A DSR is a systematic evaluation of the safety of the tailings facility, which includes a specific focus on the associated dams.

In 2022, Barr conducted a DSR for one of the external tailings facilities and its containment structures, which is registered as an extreme consequence facility.

Suncor wanted an independent review of the safety of this facility, including an evaluation of the currency and adequacy of the safety of the tailings facility and associated structures. The DSR included review of dam risks inherent in the design, operation, and performance of the structure, as well as review of associated external risks that could impact the safety of the facility and its dams.

During the DSR, Barr evaluated the adequacy and currency of the structures and provided a report on the safety and performance of the facility along with potential recommendations for improvement. In addition to design and construction of the facility, Barr reviewed and verified each component of the safety management system; verified that the current safety systems are up-to-date, appropriate, and properly implemented; and identified areas for further investigation or improvement from a dam-safety standpoint.

Barr’s independent safety review was conducted in compliance with the requirements of Part 6 (Dam and Canal Safety) of Alberta’s Water (Ministerial) Regulation and utilizes the Canadian Dam Association (CDA) Dam Safety Review Guidelines as a secondary source of standard engineering practice for dam safety.

Key team members

Farzaan Abbasy

Senior Geotechnical Engineer

Jason Harvey

Senior Geotechnical Engineer

Jed Greenwood

Vice President
Senior Geotechnical Engineer

Nathan Toohey

Senior Geotechnical Engineer

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