Improving reliability and productivity at Syncrude Canada Ltd. through materials research: Past, present, and future

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 97, No. 1083, 2004

M. Anderson, S. Chiovelli, and S. Hoskins

The annual budget for the repair and maintenance of equipment at Syncrude Canada Ltd. is in excess of 450 million dollars. Of this amount, a significant portion can be attributed to the loss of material on various pieces of equipment throughout the operation. In order to effectively battle the different wear and corrosion mechanisms that lead to material loss, it is important to understand how materials behave in the environments in which they are used. Since the start of production in 1978, the identification, development, and application of wear protection has been an ongoing challenge due to the abrasive nature of the oil sands and the massive volumes of materials that are moved. The use of various materials and application processes along with component design modifications has resulted in significant improvements in both productivity and reliability. In an effort to continuously improve the operation, Syncrude has been quick to adopt new wear technologies. Since the start of operation, a variety of materials has been used to increase wear performance and ultimately equipment reliability and availability (see figure). Although this figure does not show a time axis, the bottom axis may also be used to represent a time progression for the predominate use of these materials at Syncrude. Tungsten carbide metal matrix composite (WCMMC) overlays are currently the materials of choice for most of Syncrude’s critical production applications. Metal matrix composite overlay technology has the potential for significant improvements and Syncrude is actively working with powder consumable manufacturers to advance this technology. The introduction of the hydrotransport process has resulted in new material performance issues that require a reassessment of how to best protect components from various damage mechanisms. Tungsten carbide metal matrix composites have also been improved in recent years and currently offer the best wear protection for many wear applications. As such, considerable effort has been focused to optimize the performance of these materials. This paper will review some recent field trials where materials research has demonstrated the potential for significant improvements in equipment run life and reduced maintenance costs.These field trials will demonstrate the need for understanding the interaction between various damage mechanisms and the materials used in different services. The paper will also discuss the following results: Understanding how materials are affected by service environment is critical to maximizing equipment reliability and availability. Optimization of tungsten carbide metal matrix composites for a given abrasive medium requires an understanding of the interaction that occurs between the abrasive particles and wear-resisting material. An optimal hard phase particle size distribution and volume fraction loading likely exist for different abrasive geologies. The reduction of continuous hard phases present in NiCrBSi matrix materials used in tungsten carbide PTAW overlays allows multi-pass welds to be deposited and perform in impact environments with minimal chipping. Corrosion should always be considered in wet slurry environments.
Keywords: Reliability, Productivity, Wear, Maintenance, Syncrude