Get to know your way around a turnaround


August 2022 - Refineries and upgraders are complex facilities that process, refine and produce oil products. A lot goes into maintaining these facilities to help ensure they operate safely and reliably. As part of this maintenance, we shut down our operations for sometimes months at a time, which means we are also stopping production.  

At most refineries and upgraders, major maintenance work is referred to as a turnaround  – a planned break in production to perform preventative maintenance that includes cleaning, inspections, modifications, repairs and upgrades. Turnarounds are a core, essential part of each refinery and upgrader’s business. At Cenovus Energy, our turnarounds vary across each operation and, depending on the type of facility, usually occur every few years and can last months.  

But the pause in operations itself is not always the longest part. Planning can take months or even years depending on the level or frequency of maintenance, and is crucial to appropriately time a turnaround and to ensure rigorous safety measures are implemented before the workforce arrives on site to perform the required regulatory checks and begin maintenance work. 

“Turnarounds are an important part of ensuring that our assets are able to run safely, reliably and efficiently,” says Matthew Pedlar, Senior Supervisor, Turnaround Planning & Execution at Cenovus. “The level of preparation, planning and dedicated engagement by everyone involved ensures the success of site-wide events like this.”  

Every phase of a turnaround is crucial and includes:

  • Scoping – Identifying the variety of work that needs to be executed during the turnaround process.  
  • Planning – Once the scope is assessed, turnaround tasks are prioritized and scheduled.  
  • Pre-work – Workers arrive to prepare the site to ensure safe and efficient execution.  
  • Shutdown – Processing units are safely shut down at site.  
  • Execution – It's all hands on deck as teams, including specialized contractors, complete the planned tasks.  
  • Start-up – Following rigorous testing and checks, processing units are safely started up again.  
  • Post-work – Workers complete final tasks and prepare the site for regular operations to commence.  
  • Review – The turnaround cycle is now complete and the next turnaround planning cycle is started.  

While the turnaround process helps increase our operational efficiencies, it also plays a key role in how our facilities are designed, maintained and operated. And with every phase of a turnaround, safety is key. 

“As with all of our maintenance programs, safety is the highest priority,” says Elias Bulhoes, Superintendent, Lloydminster Refinery. “In addition to pre-turnaround safety sessions with contracting companies, daily safety meetings are also held on-site to reinforce our safety commitments and steps we can take to minimize incidents and lost time injuries.”  

We are committed to top-tier safety performance and continue to advance our safety journey. The Cenovus Operations Integrity Management System (COIMS) helps define our approach to operating safely, responsibly, and efficiently and is an important tool embedded in every phase of a turnaround. In addition to COIMS, we follow Energy Safety Canada’s Life Saving Rules, which are strategically designed to prevent injuries and significant incidents across our industry. 

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Safety commitments

Our eight safety commitments outline the attitudes and behaviours we expect to see from anyone who works with us and for us, and empower workers to speak up if they feel the work they’re asked to do is unsafe.

Operations at Cenovus

Learn more about Cenovus assets in Canada, the United States and the Asia Pacific region.

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