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Suncor Energy Inc. is rolling out anti-collision technology over the next 18 to 24 months after a recent incident that killed one worker and injured two others when two heavy trucks collided while driving up a mine ramp.CANDACE ELLIOTT/Reuters

Suncor Energy Inc. SU-T says it will deploy collision-mitigation technology commonly used in the global mining industry across its entire oil sands operations, the first company in the sector to do so.

The Calgary-based oil company is rolling out the technology over the next 18 to 24 months after a recent incident that killed one worker and injured two others when two heavy trucks collided while driving up a mine ramp.

Suncor chief executive officer Mark Little told investors on a results call Thursday that he has also beefed up the leadership team to focus more on safety following the incident and two others that affected production late last year. Analysts had expressed concern that the events underscored problems with the company’s recent operational track record.

“As CEO, the accountability for safety and operational excellence is with me. Period. I own this,” Mr. Little said.

“This is a technology that is used globally in mining, but it is not used in oil sands. So we’ll be the first oil sands company to universally use this all across the mines.”

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Suncor also completed an independent safety review after the worker’s death and found that not all workers were fully adhering to safety procedures.

Mr. Little said the company will do more to ensure front-line workers are following all safety protocols. It’s also implementing standard risk assessments across all sites, rather than taking an site-specific approach, so that when it identifies a problem it can roll out improvements across the board.

Suncor generated a record $3.1-billion in adjusted funds from operations during the fourth quarter of 2021, despite operational challenges in December, including extreme cold that plunged Alberta into a prolonged deep freeze, affecting numerous oil sands facilities.

Mr. Little said increased cash flows in 2021 resulted in the company exceeding its targets for shareholder returns through increased dividends and accelerated share repurchases.

Suncor’s total crude production in the final quarter of 2021 was around 743,300 barrels of oil per day, down from 769,200 in the prior-year quarter.

With pandemic public-health measures across Canada being slowly dialled back, Mr. Little said Suncor is already beginning to see oil demand creep back up and expects it to hit prepandemic levels mid-2022.

“We think this year will be much stronger demand in Canada than what we saw last year,” he said.

Mr. Little said Suncor is on track for a 90-per-cent utilization rate of its Fort Hills asset in 2022, which it owns along with Total SA and Teck Resources Ltd.

Suncor owns the controlling interest in Fort Hills, at just over 54 per cent. Mr. Little said Thursday that the company would be open to owning more of the mine, “it just needs to be at the right price.”

“We feel like our current portfolio of assets is complete. We don’t have any major gaps. And so we don’t have to do any [mergers and acquisitions], and we’re only going to do it if this makes eminent sense for the shareholder.”

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