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In contrast to the Chilean project conditions, Matrax, worked with its partner, Tegra Structures, to supply Suncor Energy with the same Matrax matting system as a solution for flooring requirements in temporary fabric buildings to be used for warehousing. This project, located in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada is in the harsh climate of northwestern Canada which created challenges for Matrax and our design and engineering group.

In 1967 Suncor Energy pioneered commercial development of Canada’s oil sands, one of the largest petroleum resource basins in the world. Suncor extracts and upgrades oil sands into high-quality, refinery-ready crude oil products and diesel fuel. The refined Suncor products are marketed through more than 1,450 retail outlets throughout Canada. Suncor explores for, develops, and produces conventional oil and natural gas from both onshore and offshore developments. Suncor Energy has requirements for its operations that must be met successfully, safely and be environmentally sound. Sustainability is a key component to all of Suncor’s operations.

Given the extreme cold temperatures experienced in Alberta Province of western Canada, extending to typical winter temperatures of -6°F or below, the load bearing capacity and durability of Matrax products under vehicular loading needed to be considered. The Matrax design and engineering team went to work to make modifications to our product to suit the demands of this harsh environment.

ongJan2015The alternative under consideration was to construct a concrete floor. Constructing a concrete floor would have required a prepared subgrade, placement of an open-graded stone a minimum of six inches in thickness, a plastic vapour barrier, and likely 4-6 inches of at least 4,000 psi steel reinforced concrete. When the use of the temporary structure was completed the concrete would require breakage with a hoe-ram or other heavy machinery, crushed, and disposed off-site all of which would have been extremely expensive and time consuming in this area of western Canada. Stone for the sub base is not available locally and would have had to been obtained from a source a significant distance from Fort McMurray, adding even more to the cost of the temporary floor.

The plastic Matrax matting system is a perfect solution to solve this problem and avoid an expensive concrete floor. The extremely low temperatures were beyond the capabilities of the standard plastic products so Matrax added plastomers(materials designed to alter the crystallinity of the HPDE) to the formula and manufactured flooring panels specifically for this Suncor Energy application. The modification of the HPDE with plastomers resulted in better ductility, resistance to cracking and higher impact resistance; all important considerations for a floor supporting heavy freight moving on forklifts. The additives have a much lower “glass” transition temperature than the base plastic and will lower the temperature slightly but, more importantly, they allow the base plastic to remain ductile at much lower temperatures.