Behind the Scenes – Ensuring Fuel Quality at our Terminals and Stations

I have a confession. I still buy DVDs. Sure, I subscribe to a few (ok, way too many!) streaming services – they are very convenient, especially when travelling. But for a few choice films, I still purchase the DVD. Why? So I can listen to the director and crew commentary. I love hearing all the behind the scenes stories: how certain shots were set up, weird things they used for props, how costumes were designed (side note: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy has some of the BEST commentaries – four different tracks!).

But my interest in behind-the-scenes details isn’t limited to films. I love talking to people who work out of the public eye in areas I know nothing about. So, I thought it would be interesting to talk to someone whose work is incredibly valuable to an end product I use most days – gasoline – but in an area I’m unfamiliar with.

Enter Marie-Claude Raymond, Senior Advisor, Fuel Quality at Suncor. The Fuel Quality team at Suncor (proud parent of Petro-Canada), as you would expect, ensures the quality of the end product – gasoline and other fuels – for customers. I sat down with Marie-Claude to ask her what that really means and what her day-to-day job entails.

PumpTalk: Marie-Claude, thank you for talking with me today! Tell me about the Fuel Quality group. What does your team do?

Marie-Claude Raymond: The Fuel Quality group ensures the quality of gasoline and other fuels for our customers. We are involved with everything that relates to fuel quality, including making sure new fuel-related products meet the expected quality and follow provincial and federal regulations. New products include things like renewable fuels (biodiesel and hydrotreated renewable diesel), as well as new fuel additives. We also monitor provincial and federal regulations in case anything changes that would impact our current products.

Petro-Pass Station

The team also fields requests from potential business customers, like municipal authorities, who want to start using renewable fuels for their fleets. And we support sales and marketing teams at Petro-Canada if they respond to a tender from these potential customers or need to review contracts.

And, we audit processes at the terminal to ensure the quality of the fuel is always maintained. If there is a question about fuel quality, we are the ones who conduct the investigations.

PT: Wow, that’s a lot of different skills! Did you have any special training?

MR: My background is in chemistry; I worked as a chemist in Suncor’s Montreal refinery lab for several years. All the work in the lab prepared me well for the move to the fuel quality team. It’s a very collaborative environment. It is important to be flexible because priorities can change quickly. We need to be able to work with different groups of people: supply chain, maintenance, customer service, sales, etc. Teamwork, good communication, and customer focus are very important aptitudes.

PT: You mentioned that one of the areas you’re responsible for is investigating fuel quality issues. How does an investigation come about? And what activities are part of the investigation?

MR: We don’t have a lot of quality investigations because our process for delivering fuel is so comprehensive. But, if there is one, typically customer service will have alerted us to a concern from a customer at a particular retail site. To conduct the investigation, we follow a very specific process to validate the quality of the fuel from the terminal where it originated to the retail location where the customer received the fuel. We make sure that the procedures in place to maintain the quality have been followed.

Petro-Canada Station

PT: If you do find any problems with the quality of fuel, where are they likely to be?

MR: Having water created through condensation in the tanks is the most likely problem area. It is best practice to keep tanks full, especially when seasons are changing. Plus, at our retail sites, we have filters and monitoring alarms on the tanks to detect water. Following the regulatory and safety processes as we move fuel from terminal to station is so important. It’s why, as a customer, you want to make sure that you purchase your gasoline from places where these processes are in place.

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Marie-Claude – thank you so much for this peek behind-the-scenes at Petro-Canada’s Fuel Quality team! Are there any other areas you’d be interested in learning more about at Petro-Canada? Let us know in the comments!

~Kate T.


Winter Car Maintenance: Keeping Your Car Ready-to-Go in the “Snowbelt”

I lived in Toronto for most of my adult life, until a few years ago when I moved to a smaller city in southern Ontario. I spent my first winter here remarking to my neighbours “Wow, there’s, like, so much SNOW.” My neighbours would just shake their heads at city slicker me and chuckle “Well, yup, this is the snowbelt.” Driving in snowbelt took some adjustment but taking these steps to prepare for the cold, ice, and all that white stuff helps to put my mind a little more at ease when I hit the road in winter.

Close up of car on a snow covered road

Tires

After being pushed out of a snowbank by some kind strangers, and driving home though my first whiteout (with very white knuckles), I decided to invest in a set of winter tires. I get my local garage to swap out my “All-Seasons” when it looks like the temperature is going to stay below 7 degrees Celsius. My garage also keeps track of my tire tread for me, and will give me a heads up when it might be time to consider new winter tires (although if you want to keep tabs on your tread yourself, you can try this classic trick, with the helpful caribou on our Canadian quarter.)

I make sure to check my tire pressure (including the spare hiding in the trunk!) before any long trips, and if there has been a wild swing in temperature. I bought myself a digital tire gauge that lights up. It was a little pricier than an old fashioned one, but well worth it for the accuracy and ease in reading it. Less time freezing my fingers!

Wipers and fluid

I’ll check periodically to make sure my wipers aren’t sticking or streaking, and top up my fluid with Petro-Canada’s 4-Season Advanced Non-Smear Windshield Washer Fluid (designed for Canada’s freezing temperatures and winter conditions). On a longer drive with mixed precipitation, I can go through A LOT of it, so I keep some extra in the trunk.

Extra gear

I’ll dig out my scraper and brush from under that pile of junk in the backseat, and put a roadside emergency kit in the trunk. I got my emergency kit from the Red Cross. They do a great job of putting it all together for you, but if you want to make your own, make sure you’ve at least got a small shovel, a blanket, jumper cables (and instructions on how to use them) and something to aid in traction (sand, cat litter, or a traction mat). A more comprehensive list of what you could need can be found here. Have an extra charger in your car for your mobile phone too. I keep my roadside assistance number handy as well.

Woman brushing snow off a car

Keeping things clear

I always clean off all the snow and ice before I leave my driveway: windshield, windows, mirrors, top of the car, wheel wells (if it’s building up), hood and trunk. That “it’ll blow-off eventually” attitude doesn’t cut it if I want to be safe, and courteous to others – plus, you may get fined by police if your vehicle is insufficiently clean. I find it’s also helpful to give a gentle wipe to the back-up cam. With working from home this past year, the car can sit for days and accumulate a lot of snow and ice, so I’ve gotten into the habit of clearing off the car when I shovel the sidewalk and walkway each day. That way, it’ll be ready to go if I need to get somewhere in an emergency (or will just make the next time I go out to get groceries a little less of an ordeal).

Slush and mud can quickly accumulate on the headlights and really dim their strength, not to mention my car’s visibility to others, so I do a quick check to make sure they’re clean before heading out.

Scheduled maintenance

For all the “under-the-hood” stuff that isn’t easy to spot, I make sure that I’ve taken my vehicle in for its routine oil change and maintenance check-up at my trusty garage before the snow flies. I feel better about going out into challenging weather knowing the belts, hoses, brakes, systems and fluids are all good, and the battery’s been tested and is up for the colder temperatures and extra strain of the winter months.

Keeping the tank full

Keeping the tank at least half full also means I’ll be ready in case of an emergency. It also helps to keep gas lines from freezing.

Planning ahead

I like to keep an eye on the forecast and road conditions and alter my plans accordingly. In Ontario, I’ve found this site particularly handy. Consult your local ministry of transport for warnings and websites that show current and expected road conditions. Your ministry will also have recommendations and requirements specific to the winter challenges in your area.

That’s how I’ve been keeping things moving during winter. The CAA provides a handy list, if you’re looking for more details on how to keep your vehicle (and your driving skills) in good shape during this tough season.

How about you? What maintenance tasks do you perform in the coldest months? Do you have any tricks or tips? Share in the comments!

~Paul D.


Best Wishes for the Festive Season and Happy New Year from PumpTalk

Well, folks – 2021 has been another one for the books. But as challenging as the year has been, we also have some milestones and proud moments to celebrate:

Car Ornament Hanging on Christmas Tree

To acknowledge the first official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we commissioned Indigenous artists to create murals at six of our locations. Keegan Starlight and Jessey Pacho have shared their murals and the stories behind them and we look forward to creating more space for truth and reconciliation through artwork in 2022.

On November 19, we celebrated the Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation’s first birthday. Throughout the year we’ve shared how caring for those who cared for others is one way we Live By The Leaf and we rallied together to raise awareness and funds for family caregivers through the 19-Hour Care Commitment.

And we noted in our Thanksgiving post, so many members of the Petro-Canada community inspired us with their stories. Thank you to everyone who contributed to PumpTalk this year – we appreciate you sharing your passion, learning and insights!

We’re taking a break until mid-January. From all of us at PumpTalk, we wish you and yours a safe, healthy holiday season and a happy new year.