MRO Magazine

CNRL finally resumes oil production after Horizon fire's source found, repairs made


August 24, 2011
By PEM Magazine

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) has announced that its synthetic crude oil sales have resumed from its Horizon Oil Sands operations in Northern Alberta.

Production was interrupted at Horizon on Jan. 6, 2011, when fire at the site’s upgrader — a bitumen to synthetic crude converter — caught fire and was engulfed in flames. The fire was contained to the site’s coker unit. The accident resulted in five workers injured and three hospitalized.

According to a Canadian Press article in May 2011, the fire likely broke out at the Horizon upgrader because a valve opened that shouldn’t have, the company’s chief operating officer said. CNRL was reviewing its safety procedures and giving its staff a refresher course on those rules. As it was rebuilding the coker, it was looking at design changes to prevent a similar event from happening again. At that time, repairs were expected to cost between $350 million and $450 million, which were covered by insurance.

“Canadian Natural has comprehensive procedures and policies for all operation activities at Horizon and throughout the company," president Steve Laut said in a statement in February. "These policies are enforced to ensure that all safety, environmental and operational procedures and policies are strictly adhered to. The investigation will determine if equipment malfunction or a break down in operating or maintenance practices occurred  causing this fire and if any changes need to be made.


"We will immediately implement all changes or enhancements necessary to maintain the high levels of safety and environmental excellence that is expected at all of our operations,” he added.

On Aug. 16, 2011, CNRL was able to successfully and safely resume production at the Horizion site. Since early this week on Aug. 22, production has been averaged to approximately 75,000 bbl/d of synthetic crude oil. The company plans to ramp up to full capacity — 110,000 bbl/d of synthetic oil — by next week.

CNRL is a leading oil and natural gas producer based out of Calgary and with operations located in the U.K. portion of the North Sea and offshore West Africa.