CNRL provides additional update on Horizon upgrader incident

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Jan. 10
-- Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. released additional information on the Jan. 6 fire at its Horizon upgrader in northern Alberta.

CNRL said investigations by Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and its investigation team have been under way since the incident. In addition, CNRL has had a recovery team in place since Jan. 7. The team has begun planning repairs to the equipment and derrick infrastructure damaged by the fire.

CNRL's updated summary is as follows:

• The fire occurred at about 3:30 pm on Jan. 6 at the top of coke drum 1B (1 of 4 coke drums used at Horizon), an area commonly referred to as the cutting deck. The fire burned for about 3 hr and 45 min and was allowed to burn itself out, which is the safest way to manage this type of fire.

• Five workers were injured during the incident. Four of which were medically cleared on Jan 6. One worker remains in an Edmonton hospital and is in stable condition.

• Air monitoring at the Horizon site and areas around the site, including Fort McKay, has been ongoing during and after the incident. Recorded air quality has been at levels between 5 and 7 out of a scale of 100, with readings below 25 considered good air quality by Alberta Environment.

• Workers returned to their normal shifts at Horizon on the morning of Jan. 7.

• OHS and CNRL are working together to determine the causes of the incident.

• OHS has now given CNRL personnel access to key areas around the primary upgrader to ensure equipment can be flushed and made safe for winter conditions. Additional access is expected to be granted to the upper decks of the cokers in the next few days to allow for the assessment of structural stability and to determine the extent of infrastructure required to be replaced.

• CNRL has confirmed electronic and instrument communication exists with two coke drums (2A and 2B) and evaluation of the other two coke drums (1A and 1B) continues. This would indicate that damage to at least two coke drums (2A and 2B) is likely to be minimal and in addition visual observations indicate damage to all four coke drums may be minimal.

• It appears that the majority of the damage is above the cutting deck and derrick infrastructure of coke drum 1B.

• A photographic-based survey of the cokers is planned for Jan. 11 to determine the extent of the damage to the derrick infrastructure.

• CNRL has started the procurement process for all necessary replacement components and parts for repairing the cutting deck and derrick infrastructure above coke drums 1A and 1B.

• Although it is too early to conclusively determine at this stage, there is the possibility that two of the four coke drums (2A and 2B) could be started up in a shorter time frame allowing the Horizon plant to run at production rates roughly half of target capability until the repairs to the other coke drums (1A and 1B), cutting deck, and derrick infrastructure is completed.

• While repairs to the damage are undertaken, CNRL will address maintenance backlog and potentially advance future turnaround work at the Horizon site, which should reduce maintenance downtime in the future.

• CNRL maintains a $2 billion umbrella insurance package for the Horizon facility which should cover a substantial portion of the cost to repair damaged parts and equipment and which provides business interruption insurance to effectively cover ongoing operating costs incurred on the site after 90 days.

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