ONE person is dead, and another is injured after an explosion at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oil sands facility in Alberta, Canada on 15 January.
First responders say the injured person is in a critical condition in hospital; however, Nexen reports that all other employees are accounted for. The company has not yet released the names of those affected.
All operations at the 50,000 bbl/d bitumen plant have been suspended after the accident. The company said in a statement, “There is no immediate danger to the neighbouring communities or personnel still on site.”
Ron Bailey, senior vice-president of Canadian operations at Nexen, said the explosion happened in the facility’s hydrocracker unit, where bitumen is upgraded to crude oil by using hydrogen to remove sulphur. The shutdown also includes the facility’s gasifier unit, sulphur recovery unit, and a steam-assisted gravity drainage operation.
Bailey said there are currently no plans to resume operations at the plant, and that the company has started its own investigation into what caused the accident. However, a spokeswoman with the Alberta government’s Occupational Health and Safety arm said, “The explosion happened as the workers were changing out valves on a compressor.”
Fang Zhi, CEO of Nexen, a subsidiary of the Chinese oil company CNOOC said, “There is nothing so important that it can’t be done safely. We did not live up to that standard, and I deeply regret it.”
Local authorities will also be carrying out an independent investigation into the cause of the explosion. Jeremie Landry, Staff Sgt of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said, “The investigation is in its infancy, and we don’t have any further details to what caused the explosion or what it originated from.”
The Long Lake facility has suffered a number of problems since it started up behind schedule and amid severe cost overruns in 2008. After CNOOC purchased Nexen Energy in 2013 for US$15.1bn, the problems continued as the plant was forced to curb production after a pipeline leak at a neighbouring facility spilled 31,500 bbl of emulsion.
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