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Explosion at an Oil Sands Plant in Northern Alberta

Explosion at an Oil Sands Plant in Northern Alberta

FORT MCMURRAY, ALBERTA – The injured victim was taken to a local hospital, and later flown to the burn unit at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. Neither victim has been identified.

One person is dead and another is in critical condition following an explosion at an oilsands site in northern Alberta Friday.

The explosion happened inside a building at the Nexen Long Lake facility at around 3:20 p.m.

“A hydrocracker on site may have caused the explosion. That’s early indications, of course,” Acting Staff Sgt. Jeremie Landry said Friday night.

RCMP were called to the site, about 70 kilometres south of Fort McMurrary, just before 5 p.m.

“Our emergency response plan has been activated and response personnel, including first responders from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, are on site,” Nexen Energy said in a statement Friday evening.

“We are deeply saddened to confirm one fatality and a second person is at (the) hospital. All other personnel are accounted for.”

Brad Grainger, deputy chief of operations with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, said the person sent to hospital suffered severe burns. That person was transferred to the burn centre at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. The person’s identity is not known.

The other person was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Obviously a call of this nature is very devastating any time you have the loss of life or people injured. It can have a rippling effect on other employees and on the entire site as a whole. So it’s definitely not an easy call to have to attend to,” Landry said.

The Nexen facility has been shut down. There is no immediate danger to the neighbouring communities or anyone on site, Nexen said.

Landry said at this point there is no reason to believe the explosion was a criminal act.

The Alberta Energy Regulator said its staff has been sent out to conduct their own investigation.

In an unrelated incident, some of the pipeline operation at the Long Lake facility was shut down over the summer following an oil spill.

A spill of about five million litres of bitumen, sand and produced water was discovered near Nexen’s Long Lake oilsands facility in late June. The break occurred just over a kilometre from the Long Lake plant. Nexen “sincerely apologized” for the impact it caused.

The AER ordered Nexen to suspend operations at 95 of its pipelines, due to “noncompliant activities at Long Lake oilsands operations” to do with pipeline maintenance and monitoring.

In September 2015, the AER allowed Nexen Energy to partially resume operations.

Calgary-based Nexen Energy ULC was acquired by China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd. more than two years ago.

Long Lake is designed to produce up to 72,000 barrels of bitumen per day.

With files from The Canadian Press. 

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