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6 entries from March 2021

Supporting a Lower Carbon Future with Petro-Canada’s Hydro-Treated Renewable Diesel Trials

Since I write for a blog called PumpTalk, you’d think that I’d know more about the evolution of fuel. But truth be told, I actually focus more on things like driving safety or advances in urban infrastructure. So, I was quite keen to talk to the Renewables Fuels team at Petro-Canada and learn about an exciting and innovative pilot program they started in British Columbia around the use of Hydro-Treated Renewable Diesel (aka HRD).

First, a little background on Biodiesel, a low carbon diesel that has been used for many years. Biodiesel is a biodegradable alternative fuel, used in diesel engines, and is made from renewable feedstock such as plant oils, waste cooking oil or animal fats. The production of Biodiesel is a chemical process that results in an oxygenated molecule called fatty acid methyl ester (FAME).

To support their commitment to be part of the total solution to meet energy demand (they did build the Electric Highway!) and reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation system, Petro-Canada is exploring the benefits of using higher blends of Hydro-Treated Renewable Diesel within commercial customer applications. HRD uses the same renewable materials in its feedstock as biodiesel but is produced through a chemical refining process called hydro-treating, which involves treating the feedstock with hydrogen under elevated temperatures and pressures. This process eliminates more impurities than biodiesel and is similar to how conventional fuels are produced, so the chemical properties of HRD are similar to conventional petroleum diesel. This similarity means that an organization can easily switch from regular diesel to HRD without a significant overhaul of their current operations.

BCIT tech working on an engine during lab trials of HRD
BCIT tech working on an engine during lab trials of HRD

Renewable diesel has several expected environmental benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions as well as reusing waste products (and diverting them from landfills), along with operational benefits such as lower equipment maintenance costs and longer equipment longevity.

To support their commercial customers, Petro-Canada is testing the use of higher blends of HRD, starting with certain on-road fleet customers, as well as select municipal fleets and off-road applications in the province of British Columbia. Their HRD trial program includes lab and field tests for operational, performance and emission results to support customers in their switch to a more sustainable fuel, while allowing for their business continuity and growth.

Any questions about Biodiesel or HRD? Let us know in the comments and we can answer them in a future post!

~ Kate T.

Keep Your Focus on the Road – Avoid Distracted Driving

The arrival of spring and cherry blossom season in Vancouver makes me keen to get out of the house and out into the world – while staying safe, of course. Staying safe is not only masks and physical distancing. Perhaps the number one way to stay safe on the roads is to avoid distracted driving.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators defines distracted driving as

Distracted driving is when a driver’s attention is diverted from the driving task by secondary activities (e.g., eating, talking to passengers, talking or texting on electronic communication devices (ECDs) such as cell phones and smart phones).

The specifics of what constitutes distracted driving, varies between provinces and territories.

infographic what counts as distracted driving, who created the infographic above, has put together an excellent article that reviews the distracted driving penalties in each province and territory.

According to data from Transport Canada’s National Collision Database, distracted driving contributed to an estimated 21% of fatal collisions and 27% of serious injury collisions in 2016. These statistics show an upward trend in distracted driving incidents: fatal collisions were 16% and serious injury collisions 22% a decade earlier.

Transport Canada encourages every driver to take responsibility and drive distraction-free:

  • Never text while driving, even when you are stopped in traffic or at a traffic light
  • If you must send or receive a call or text, pull over to a safe location and park your car first
  • Avoid using any device that may take your attention away from the task of driving, including your car’s navigation or infotainment systems
  • Keep your eyes on the road and safely control your vehicle at all times
  • Encourage friends and family to drive distraction-free

When I get in the driver’s seat of my car, I put my phone on silent and put it in the glove compartment. It can be really hard to do – I’m attached to my phone like everyone else. But I remind myself that even if someone calls or texts me, they would want me to drive safe rather than answer – for my sake and those I share the road with.

~ Kate T.

Get Out and Get Your EV Charge On

Spring is in the air and many of us are experiencing the travel itch. Staying local and exploring what your own province has to offer is still the best plan. We were delighted to see Andrea, aka @Mommy Gearest, and her family tooling around in a Prius and stopping off at one of our EV Fast Charge stations.

@MommyGearest at EV Fast Charge

@MommyGearest at EV Fast Charge
Photos Courtesy of @MommyGearest; Photo Credit: Kristen Recalis Photography

Check out her post and her story on Instagram where she talks about charging an EV in colder temperatures and shows off our EV app. Thanks, Andrea!

Spring Ahead: Safety Tips for Daylight Saving Driving

Well, we’re coming up on my least favourite day of the year. The day the clocks “spring forward” – this year it’s Sunday, March 14 – and go back on Daylight Saving Time, except for you lucky ducks in Saskatchewan and the Yukon. The Monday after the time switch usually finds me a little cranky and disoriented.

Sleepy Woman in Car

And it’s not just me. Losing that hour of sleep can mess with the human body, which can in turn make driving the day after "springing forward" a dicey situation. In fact, according to a study done at McMaster University entitled "Sleep Deficit, Fatal Accidents and the Spring Shift to Daylight Savings Time", traffic accidents increased by 17% on the Monday after Daylight Savings Time (compared to an average Monday).

Disrupting our circadian rhythms can lead to slower reflexes and impaired decision-making ability - not great when you’re driving a vehicle. And although fewer folks are commuting these days, here are a few tips to help you stay alert after DST this weekend.

  • Go to bed early all weekend. Start going to bed early on the Friday and Saturday before Daylight Savings Time kicks in - it will help your body adjust sooner.
  • Acknowledge that your body is out of whack and take a little extra time for activities. If you’re getting into the car, take a moment to really focus on the route you're about to take.
  • Cut down on in-car distractions. Consider leaving the music off and if you're a coffee drinker, enjoy that java before you leave the house or after you get to work - no sipping on the road!
  • Keep it cool. If it's warm in the car, you'll feel cozy…and drowsy. Keeping the car cooler will help you stay alert. Turn down the heat or open the window for a little fresh air.
  • If you’re driving to work, pay attention both to and from work. You might think that the most accidents happen in the morning following the time change but in fact, the majority of them happen on the afternoon commute home, when your lack of sleep may really be catching up with you. Take a moment before leaving work to relax and focus on that drive home.
  • Bring the right eyewear. You may have been heading home in twilight for the last few weeks. With the time change, the day will still be bright. Make sure to have your sunglasses on hand, particularly if you're driving west.

Apparently it can take as long as two weeks for our bodies to adjust to the change in time - so be sure to keep tabs on your fatigue and avoid driving when sleepy.

Do you have any post-Daylight Savings Time "getting back to normal" rituals? Share them in the comments! And be safe out there on Monday!

~Kate T.

Embracing Conflict and Eschewing Perfection – An International Women’s Day Interview with Andrea Decore

March 8 is International Women’s Day #IWD2021 - a global day that celebrates the achievements of women and serves as a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Recognizing and addressing barriers – including cultural, generational and gender biases – will help us create a better world and a great place to work for everyone. Each year, we like to celebrate this day by profiling women from the Petro-Canada family, and our parent organization Suncor, to learn about their roles, their thoughts on gender balance and how they are supporting a respectful and inclusive workplace.

Our second profile this year is of Andrea Decore, Vice President, Strategy and Corporate Development at Suncor. Prior to this role, Andrea has held a number of positions, including time as legal counsel, during her 20 years at Suncor.

Andrea Decore

PumpTalk: Can you tell us a bit about your position at Suncor?

My current role is Vice President, Strategy and Corporate Development. In this role, I am responsible for corporate strategy, capital allocation, project governance, project economics, mergers & acquisitions, new business development, and strategic commercial opportunities.

I have a great job at a really interesting time in the evolution of the energy economy. There are several opportunities for Suncor to participate in the energy transition. In particular, we can also bring Petro-Canada customers a differentiated offering that is low carbon and can address global climate concerns.

PumpTalk: What career highlights are you most proud of?

In November of 2017, I brought five years of Indigenous consultation agreement negotiations to a conclusion with two landmark deals: one with Mikisew Cree First Nation and the other with Fort McKay First Nation. The deals included long-term, broad-ranging consultation agreements and the sale of a 49% stake in Suncor’s East Tank Farm (ETF) hot bitumen terminal to the two First Nations - funded entirely by the largest public bond offering by Indigenous communities in Canadian history.

This investment generates almost $20 million dollars a year of revenue for those two First Nations, which they then invest in community programs, education, healthcare and infrastructure. They are now significant business partners with us, and economic participants in the Canadian energy infrastructure – that is huge! Plus, other pipeline companies are using this ETF commercial model now. I love that my team came up with this concept and it is continuing to be leveraged elsewhere, including by us in additional Indigenous investment opportunities.

More recently, I have been doing a lot of corporate development work to support the energy transition to a low carbon future. I have championed and executed investments that Suncor has made in Enerkem - a solid waste to fuels company; LanzaTech - a waste gasses to fuels company; and LanzaJet – a sustainable aviation fuel production company. These investments, along with others that my team and I have advised on, will make a real difference to the global energy system. What more could anyone want than to work on interesting projects that make a difference to people, the environment and the economy?

PumpTalk: In your time with Suncor, and from your perspective working in a traditionally male-dominated industry, what has helped you navigate the workplace and your career?

I’m very fortunate because I love what I do. That has helped me in my career, time and time again. If you do what you like, you will put the time in. The more time you put in, the better you get at it.

It has also helped to have a supportive family. Surround yourself with people who want you to be successful and who will help you get there.

image from

PumpTalk: Innovations are constantly changing the future of energy. How important do you think gender equality is to the future of Canada?

Gender equality is non-negotiable and, in fact, is a right enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But what does that mean for business? The Globe and Mail had a great pull out on gender equality and diversity on January 21. As they noted:

“The first equal pay legislation in Canada passed in 1951, making it illegal to pay men and women in the same job different salaries. Women overtook men among university graduates three decades ago. Today, women represent just under half of the workforce. And yet, men still dramatically outnumber, outrank and outearn women.”

If a business truly wants to be successful, they need to solve this problem – and if they can, it will be a competitive advantage. The data now shows that businesses that have more women in executive positions perform better financially.

We really want a broad scope of diversity – not just gender diversity, but also cultural, age, sexual orientation, etc. While having everyone look and think the same is easy and convenient, it is proven not to be conducive to innovation. Diversity is an economic issue, a GDP issue.

PumpTalk: What two key pieces of advice would you offer women in the workplace?

First, develop resilience and don’t be afraid of conflict. Everyone faces challenges, everyone has missteps, everyone feels stress, everyone makes mistakes – these shouldn’t get you down, they shouldn’t cause you to give up or give in. Try not to take things too personally. Best just to learn from mistakes and move on. The more senior you become, the more difficult conversations you’ll have. Cultivate your listening skills. Be respectful. Even if the criticism you’re addressing is unfounded, you still need to address the concerns. Show up with confidence coupled with humility.

Second, remember that perfection is overrated. A lot of women want to be perfect. They want to be successful at everything. They want to do it all and they feel like they need to do it all by themselves. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to be perfect, or to do it all yourself. Women need to be forgiving with themselves. It’s important to ask for help from time to time. It’s also important to learn to say “no” to some things. In my experience, you can do a lot of different things at once, but you can’t do it all.

A mentor of mine gave me some good advice early in my career. Focus on what’s important. Know that your career will ebb and flow. Sometimes you’ll be able to do more and sometimes other things will need attention. That advice has influenced the way I interact with my kids and my husband. I always tell them what I’m working on and I feel they are partners in my career. Is it perfect? No. But I think we all get better because of it.

PumpTalk: The 2021 theme for International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge: a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. What does this mean to you?

Challenge breeds creativity and innovation. In The Geography of Genius, the author, Eric Weiner, notes that all great periods of innovation are the culmination, the product, of challenge or strife. When you have challenges, you are forced to be creative, to find solutions to think outside the box. Don’t be crippled by the challenge. Focus instead on how do I make something positive.


Andrea, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your experience! Our other profile this year is of Shannon Wing, recently appointed Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development for the Petro-Canada business at Suncor. In her interview we discuss the need to challenge assumptions and unconscious bias in the workplace.

~Kate T.