SYNCRUDE CANADA has revealed that a line failure and leak caused the fire at its upgrader in Alberta on Tuesday, an incident which saw one worker rushed to hospital in a serious condition.
“The cause has been identified as a line failure and naphtha leak in our hydrotreating area,” the company said in a statement. “The fire remains isolated and controlled.”
The fire broke out at 14:00 local time on 14 March at Syncrude Canada’s Mildred Lake upgrader, 40 km north of Fort McMurray, a city which serves Alberta’s huge oil sands industry. Alberta Health Services says that the injured worker is in a serious condition. Syncrude Canada says he remains stable and is being treated in an Edmonton Hospital.
“Yesterday was a tough day for our organisation and especially difficult for one employee and his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with our colleague,” said Syncrude CEO Mark Ward.
Once safe to proceed, the company will conduct a complete damage assessment and begin repairs. The company added that a full investigation will be carried out to understand what happened and help prevent future incidents.
The 350,000 bbl/d facility processes bitumen from oil sands into synthetic crude. The company said that the rest of its operations are stable with several upgrader units either shutdown or operating at lower capacity, while oil sands mining is being reduced to match diminished processing capacity.
Last year, the Mildred Lake upgrader was forced – along with many other oil sands operations – to shut down as wild fires raged through the region. Efforts to recover from the disaster and the extensive damage caused are ongoing.
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