Only a week after the first bitumen was produced at the Muskeg River oil sands plant, a series of minor explosions on January 6 hit the froth treatment area and shut down the plant. The cause of the problem appears to have been a hydrogen leak from pipes near the Train Two solvent recovery unit (SRU-2). The mine’s emergency response team and units from both Syncrude and the Fort McMurray Fire Department extinguished the flames within a couple of hours. Only one minor first aid injury was reported.
Most of the froth treatment plant escaped harm. The SRU-2 was damaged by the blast, but it had not yet been fully commissioned and was not operating at the time. Only minor damage was noted on the SRU-1, which had been operating since Dec. 29. Filling the corridor pipeline and related tankage has been suspended until Train One is restarted.
CMJ profiled the Muskeg River operations in its October 2002 issue, which may be viewed at www.CanadianMiningJournal.com