Second fire flares up at Suncor plant

FORT MCMURRAY — A second fire ignited Wednesday near an upgrader that was already offline because of a blaze earlier this week at Suncor Energy (TSX:SU).

FORT MCMURRAY — A second fire ignited Wednesday near an upgrader that was already offline because of a blaze earlier this week at Suncor Energy (TSX:SU).

Jason Cobb, Alberta Environment spokesman, said he believes the initial source of the fire that happened at midnight Monday had been extinguished.

But he said some of the damage to the area made the equipment brittle from the heat, causing the new fire to flare up on Wednesday.

He said environmental staff closely monitored the situation and stayed in close contact with Suncor.

Suncor spokesman Brad Bellows said the original fire started in the coker — a processing unit — of Suncor’s U1 upgrader.

The unit, capable of producing up to 125,000 barrels of synthetic crude a day, is one of two at the site north of Fort McMurray.

Bellows said two employees suffered minor injuries, but had since returned to work after being treated on scene.

The area around the upgrader was safely evacuated, and remained cordoned off for the investigation.

“We are doing a damage assessment, so that could take several days,” Bellows said.

“At that point, we will provide an update on the schedule for repairs.”

The latest incident occurred just a week after repairs had finished Feb. 1 to Suncor’s other upgrader, U2, which had been offline since mid-December, also because of fire.

Both Alberta Environment and the Energy Resources Conservation Board are investigating the incidents.

Obviously, we’re going to be looking at this very closely,” said ERCB spokesman Davis Sheremata. “We’re going to be talking to staff, going over and looking at the equipment involved to see why this happened.”

Given the two fires at Suncor involving both upgraders, he said whenever “you see multiple incidents happening in one section of something, you want to look at it really, really closely.”