Autonomous Oil sands Operation Relies on Proven Technology and Partnership Approach

When Imperial Oil made the decision to implement autonomous haulage at its Kearl operation in the oil sands, the company pulled together a team of experts from Imperial, Finning and Caterpillar to apply the technology. Kearl, was the first application of Cat MineStar Command for hauling in the oil sands, in a remote northern location with unpredictable weather and ground conditions. And it was the first time Command for hauling was used on a Cat 797F. “This was a pretty large scale operation,” says Kevin Voros, site autonomy engineer for Finning. “And converting the entire operation is going to be a huge challenge, that’s why we are here, to tackle that challenge and provide support to Imperial Oil through this journey.”

The team utilized a combination of the MineStar suite of software including Fleet which is the dispatch system, Terrain which is the loading and grading system, and Command, which allows the truck to haul autonomously. In order to get the full value out of this autonomous mining system, everything needs to be working perfectly. But while the application was new, the technology itself had already been proven on a number of mine sites around the world and its implementation was being supported by a team of experts committed to its success. 

“We had to leverage the expertise of Caterpillar and Finning and Imperial Oil and we had to come together as one team, I think that’s why we are successful,” says Mansoor Hussain, autonomous project manager, for Imperial Oil. “You can assemble the world’s smartest people and they won’t be able to accomplish what we have if they’re not working together as one team. We’ve broken down the barriers between the different companies. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Imperial person, a Caterpillar person or a Finning person, you have the right to speak up, you have the right to call out things that aren’t safe, you have the right to be emboldened to come up with new ideas, new ways of doing things and I think that’s what made us successful, that one team approach.”