One killed, one injured in blast at Long Lake oil sands project

CNOOC Ltd.’s Canadian unit said investigations continue into the cause of an explosion at the 50,000-b/d Long Lake oil sands project in Fort McMurray, Alta. The oil processing plant remains closed indefinitely after the Jan. 15 blast killed one worker and injured another.

Nexen Energy ULC was acquired by China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd. more than 2 years ago. The incident is under investigation by Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Department. The Alberta Energy Regulator also sent representatives to the plant.

The Long Lake upgrader gasifies asphaltines from produced bitumen into synthesis gas, which is used as a fuel and source of hydrogen for a hydrocracker.

“All of our employees and contractors across our global operations are reeling from this news,” Nexen Chief Executive Fang Zhi said at a Jan. 16 news conference in Calgary, calling it “one of the darkest days in Nexen’s history.”

After the blast, two maintenance workers were found near natural gas compression equipment used for a hydrocracker at the plant’s upgrader, Nexen said. One worker was killed, and the second suffered burns for which he was admitted to a hospital.

The incident was the second one at the Long Lake plant within 6 months. A pipeline ruptured in July that forced Nexen to curb production but didn’t injure any workers. The blast was separate from the area where the pipeline leak happened last year (OGJ Online, Sept. 8, 2015).

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