Suncor slapped with environmental fines in Alberta

Thu Apr 2, 2009 4:16pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A Canadian court slapped Suncor Energy Inc and a contractor it hired with more than C$1 million ($805,000) in fines on Thursday for environmental infractions at the company's northern Alberta oil sands operations.

Suncor, Canada's No. 2 oil sands producer, will pay C$675,000 for failing to install pollution control equipment at its Firebag steam-driven oil sands operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, and then keeping that information from provincial environmental authorities.

The violation, which dates back to 2006 and 2007, resulted in hydrogen sulfide, which can be deadly in high enough concentrations, being released into the atmosphere, the Alberta environment ministry said.

The company had committed to installing the equipment in its application to develop the Firebag project, where steam is pumped into the ground to loosen up tar-like bitumen, allowing it to be pumped to the surface in wells.

In another case at provincial court in Fort McMurray on Thursday, Suncor and its work camp operator, Compass Group Canada Ltd, were fined a combined C$400,000 after investigators found a subcontractor released partially treated wastewater into the Athabasca River between 2005 and 2007.

The subcontractor pleaded guilty to falsifying information and mismanaging the facility.

The ministry said Suncor and Compass were unaware of the falsification, but Suncor was fined C$175,000 for failing to supervise Compass and Compass was fined C$225,000 for failing to report the subcontractor's violations.

Much of the money received in fines will be used to fund such initiatives as a regulatory compliance program at the University of Calgary and for training by the Alberta Waste and Waste Water Operators Association.

($1=$1.24 Canadian)

(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Peter Galloway)