Canadian Natural shuts down Horizon Oil Sands facility after fire

By Phaedra Friend Troy

There was an explosion at the Canadian Natural ResourcesHorizon Oil Sands facility near Alberta, forcing the company to shut-down the plant.

On Thursday afternoon, a fire ignited in the Horizon Oil Sands upgrader, which converts bitumen into crude oil products.

Four employees sustained injuries due to the blast. One of the injured personnel was treated on scene, and three have been transported to the hospital in Fort McMurray. One person suffered second and third degree burns, another first degree burns, and the other a neck injury. All are in stable condition.

Canadian Natural immediately began evacuating employees and shut down of the facility. It is unclear when oil production will resume.

“Canadian Natural’s first priority is the well being of our personnel and to safely control the situation,” the company said in a statement about the accident.

The company reported late Thursday that air quality near the plat is “good.”

The appropriate regulatory authorities, including ERCB and Alberta Environment, have been alerted. CBC News reports that Alberta Occupational Health and Safety officials are investigating the explosion, as well.

The Horizon Oil Sands Project was sanctioned in February 2005 and produced its first barrel of crude oil in early 2009. The project includes a surface oil sands mining and bitumen extraction plant, as well as an on-site bitumen upgrader to produce synthetic crude oil from the bitumen.

According to a recent report from the company, the Horizon Oil Sands project produced an average of 83,700 barrels per day of synthetic crude oil in December 2010.

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