Supply line leak led to fire at Alberta oilsands facility, Syncrude says

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — A fire that broke out at a Syncrude oilsands site in northern Alberta was the result of a supply line that broke and leaked light oil, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

Crews were allowing the blaze at the Mildred Lake oilsands upgrader to burn itself off of flammable chemicals, 24 hours after it erupted on Tuesday afternoon, because that’s the safest way to dispose of the residual material, Will Gibson said.

“The fire was the result of a line failure which cause treated naptha (a light oil) to leak,” Gibson said, adding that the air is being monitored.

Most of Syncrude’s workforce has returned to the oilsands mining complex and the upgrader is still operating despite the fire, he said.

“The remainder of our operation is in a safe and stable position,” he said. “Flaring will continue to ensure excess natural gas and hydrogen is safely managed.

“This flaring will on occasion also consume excess sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide in a safe manner.”

Syncrude staff, the Alberta Energy Regulator and the province’s Occupational Health and Safety division are investigating.

One worker was injured and taken to hospital in nearby Fort McMurray in serious but stable condition on Tuesday. The worker remained in hospital Wednesday afternoon, Gibson said.

The fire happened at one of the two hydrotreaters at Syncrude’s upgrader, Gibson said. The units are designed to start the upgrading process by separating heavy bitumen crude oil into components.

The incident raises questions about Syncrude’s operational reliability after it posted some of the best results in its 40-year history last year.

TD Securities analyst Menno Hulshof said in a note to investors that Syncrude averaged more than 98 per cent utilization in the second half of 2016, an improvement attributed by some to Suncor Energy increasing its stake in the ownership consortium from 12 per cent to 54 per cent through buyouts of two other partners.

He said Syncrude’s 2017 utilization guidance of 84 per cent, which includes downtime for planned maintenance, will probably fall along with production levels because of the fire.

A fire at the Mildred Lake upgrader in August 2015 slashed output at the facility by about 80 per cent before it returned to normal production by October.

Follow ↕HealingSlowly on Twitter.

Just Posted

Judge allows Mr. Big evidence in murder trial

Two men accused of triple-murder admitted their involvement to undercover police

Red Deer agency supporting for LGBTQ2S+ youth

New report on LGBTQ2S+ youth from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate

Four people arrested after gas and dash

Four people were arrested after an alleged gas and dash in two… Continue reading

Arrests made at Red Deer Rebels game

Charges pending against two people

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer: Nov. 19

Watch news highlights from the week of Nov. 13

Red Deer Christmas Bureau to help 1,300 children this year

Demand is high, but Red Deer always provides

CP Holiday train to stop in Ponoka for another year

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Kittens rescued after allegedly being tossed from vehicle

Couple finds abandoned kittens new home through Facebook

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month