SAGD is an enhanced oil recovery technique that uses steam stimulation to pull heavy crude and bitumen from deep underground. Surmont 2 is the largest single-phase SAGD facility ever built.

Bitumen extraction is a key driver of Alberta’s economy, and the new facility enables its owner, ConocoPhillips Canada, to increase production by approximately 100,000 barrels a day. 

PCL’s scope of work on the project focused on the construction of a steam generation unit, a tank farm, on-site utilities and off-site facilities including water treatment, bitumen treatment and sulferox areas. PCL also managed subcontracts for the installation of various pre-engineered buildings throughout the site. 

The partnership between ConocoPhillips Canada and PCL was a catalyst for collaboration and innovative thinking on Surmont 2, culminating in $93 million in savings for the oil exploration and production company. 


Management from both PCL and ConocoPhillips Canada asserted that the project is a team effort and its success should not be considered the sole responsibility of one or the other. And knowing that time can be so easily lost in unclear communication, PCL and ConocoPhillips focused from the outset on building a cohesive team that would interlock communications at every phase of the project. 

To develop strong working relationships, two “Time to Talk” meetings and one “Time to Walk” meeting were held each week. Talking meetings were held at the ConocoPhillips offices and walking meetings in the field. The meetings brought together construction managers from PCL and ConocoPhillips for a 45-minute information discussion about the project. “Time to Talk” provided an opportunity to discuss what had happened on-site over the last few days, while “Time to Walk” involved corner-to-corner site walks so participants could see firsthand what they had discussed. 

The open, informal forum helped PCL and ConocoPhillips break down barriers and become more comfortable discussing issues, voicing opinions and solving problems as a cohesive team. 


To ensure that the team was focused on establishing the systems required for first steam, to improve productivity, and to help the team manage each area in detail, Prioritized Construction (PriCon) was implemented in spring 2013. PriCon essentially looked to the end of the project to determine what areas should be prioritized and completed first, to support early production of steam, and which areas could wait. The teams worked together to divide PCL’s scope of more than 500 systems required to complete the plant into 24 groupings with assigned mechanical completion dates. The original contract defined only three key mechanical completion dates. 

Originally, the PCL team was creating schedules using Level 4 Primavera—an industry-standard scheduling software. Primavera’s schedules were more than 30 pages long and had proved difficult to properly manage for the scope of work to come, owing to the time required to fully review the reports. To make matters easier, PCL developed 90-Day Look Ahead schedules, focused on specific areas on-site and encompassing all disciplines that were required in a given area. These schedules provided PCL with a look at what had happened in the last month and also what would be upcoming in the next three. The schedules were then used to formulate a specific plan, recognize trends and make arrangements to accommodate these trends ahead of time, all on a weekly basis, within an hour and on only six pages. 

The 90-Day Look Ahead schedules helped teams because they required superintendents and coordinators to identify roadblocks and seek opportunities to find efficiencies and meet their targets. The 90-Day Look Ahead also helped them meet deadlines and develop long-term plans for each area and provided a look back at what each superintendent had committed to and what each crew had completed.

In addition to substantial project savings, the implementation of PriCon and the 90-Day Look Ahead schedules also improved worker productivity by 12% over the previous year. 

The Surmont 2 project delivered first oil to market in September 2015. Production is planned to ramp up through 2017 and continue to help fuel Alberta’s economy for decades.