Fire hits Syncrude’s Alberta oil sands upgrader

An investigation is under way into a fire that occurred early on Aug. 29 at Syncrude Canada Ltd.’s upgrader in the Mildred Lake oil sands production area, about 40 km north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

The process fire occurred in interconnecting piping between hydrotreating and environmental units at the upgrading installation and was quickly extinguished by on site emergency personnel, with no injuries reported, said Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. (COS), which holds a 36.74 interest in the Syncrude Canada project.

While the fire did not damage the main coker conversion units and operations remain ongoing, production of light, sweet synthetic crude oil at the site has been suspended temporarily as Syncrude works to develop a recovery and repair strategy, COS said.

The company continues to investigate the cause of the incident.

Details regarding a timeframe for recovery and repair work were not disclosed.

COS said it will provide an assessment of estimated production and cost impacts stemming from the incident when that information becomes available.

With a production capacity of 350,000 b/d, Syncrude output averaged 326,100 b/d during the month of July, according to the latest production data available from COS.

In addition to COS, joint-venture owners of the Syncrude Canada project include Imperial Oil Resources 25%, Sinopec Oil Sands Partnership 9.03%, Suncor Energy Ventures Partnership 12%, Nexen Oil Sands Partnership 7.23%, Mocal Energy Ltd. 5%, and Murphy Oil Co. Ltd. 5%.

Last year Syncrude completed a retrofitting of bitumen centrifuges at Mildred Lake designed to improve the quality of bitumen feed and increase throughput rates to the upgrader, according to COS’s 2014 annual report.

Earlier this year the operator filed applications with Alberta Energy Regulator for two extensions to the Mildred Lake oil sands production area, which would allow Syncrude to recover an additional 738 million bbl of bitumen from the region and extend the duration of mining activity at Mildred Lake by about 14 years (OGJ Online, Jan. 20, 2015).

Contact Robert Brelsford at

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