CALGARY — The chief executive of Suncor Energy Inc. says the company is adopting mining safety technology for the first time in the oilsands following a recent death and several incidents.

The change is among a series of efforts to improve safety at its sites, Mark Little said Thursday during a conference call to discuss fourth quarter earnings.

“As CEO, the accountability for safety and operational excellence is with me, period,” he told analysts. “I have a comprehensive plan endorsed by our board and we’re executing this plan to address these concerns.”

The Calgary-based company said it will implement collision avoidance and fatigue management technology across all of its mobile mine equipment within the next 18 to 24 months, Little said.

“This is a technology that is used globally in mining, but it is not used in oilsands. So we’ll be the first oilsands company to universally use this all across the mines,” he said.

Last month, a truck crash at Suncor’s Base Mine site near Fort McMurray, Alta. resulted in the death of a contractor.

The Calgary-based oil producer and refiner also reported last month two other operational incidents that occurred in December related to equipment failures and extreme cold weather at oilsands locations. The company has said these incidents resulted in a production loss of about 195,000 barrels per day in the last half of December.

Little said these incidents, along with the recent fatality, are “unacceptable.” He said the company recently completed an independent review of safety at its oilsands mines, including a focus on the safety of contract workers.

“As part of that, we’ve spent quite a bit of time reducing the prescriptive procedures, which quite frankly we found out a lot of people are not using or following . . . there was a gap between the practice and the actual procedures,” Little said, adding the Suncor management is now focused on engaging directly with front-line workers about safety.

Suncor Energy Inc. reported after markets closed Wednesday that it earned $1.53 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The company said it earned $1.07 per common share for the period ended Dec. 31, compared with a net loss of $168 million or 11 cents per common share in the same period of 2020.

Revenues surged 68 per cent to $11.1 billion from $6.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Analysts expected Suncor to earn $1.35 billion in the quarter, or 94 cents per common share on $10.8 billion of revenues, according to financial database company Refinitiv.

Suncor said the increases were primarily related to higher crude oil and refined product sales reflecting the improved business environment. The fourth quarter of 2020 had been negatively impacted by the significant decline in transportation fuel demand related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suncor says it generated a record $3.1 billion, or $2.17 per common share, in adjusted funds from operations during the fourth quarter.

Suncor’s total upstream production was 743,300 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) in the fourth quarter, compared with 769,200 boe/d in the prior year quarter. It says the decrease was due to in part to the absence of production from the Golden Eagle Area development, which was sold in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Suncor’s refinery utilization averaged 96 per cent and its crude throughput was 447,000 barrels per day,  compared to 95 per cent and 438,000 barrels per day  in the prior year quarter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:SU)

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

News from © The Canadian Press, 2022. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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