Employees evacuated following Syncrude fire
The worker injured at the Syncrude fire at the company’s upgrader plant located north of Fort McMurray is reported to be hospitalized in serious, but stable condition.
The fire occurred on Tuesday afternoon at about 2 p.m. after an explosion rocked the Mildred Lake Upgrader. Officials say emergency crews were able to get the blaze under control in about four hours.
“Syncrude Emergency Services and Operations personnel have isolated and controlled a fire that occurred in the Mildred Lake Upgrader this afternoon,” the company said in a press release.
According to company officials, an investigation into the explosion and fire has determined the incident was caused by a mechanical failure.
A line leaking treated naphtha, a highly flammable hydrocarbon mixture, triggered the explosion and fire which continues to smolder inside the facility, said Gibson.
Will Gibson, Syncrude spokesperson told CBC News “The fire remains isolated and under control as of this afternoon, and the remainder of the operation is in a safe and stable condition.”
“While we’re responding to this incident, flaring is occurring to ensure excess natural gas and hydrogen are safely managed. This flaring will also be used to consume excess hydrogen sulphide in a safe manner.”
When the flames are extinguished and the site secured, the company will open an investigation into the blast and assess the damage, Gibson said.
“I won’t have specifics on the investigation … but I can tell you it will be very thorough because someone was injured, and that’s unacceptable.”
Syncrude personnel and contractors have been asked to report for their usual Wednesday shifts, but the damaged part of the Mildred Lake Upgrader is off limits.
“Our people are reporting to work as scheduled, but there are some modified issues around people who would normally work in the area that is affected by the fire,” Gibson said.
“That area is being restricted to allow for investigation. Syncrude will be thoroughly investigating this incident and will be co-operating with other agencies that will be investigating it.”
Syncrude is Canada’s largest single source of synthetic crude and is majority-owned by Suncor Energy, but Imperial Oil provides operational, technical and business management support under agreements signed in 2006.
Residents in the nearby town of Fort McKay were asked to stay indoors as the fire impacted the northern community’s air quality.
Staff with the Alberta Energy Regulator is on the scene.