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article imageCanadian National cuts production after fire at oilsands upgrader

By Karen Graham     May 2, 2019 in Business
Edmonton - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd on Wednesday cut its May and June production due to ongoing maintenance at its oil sands Scotford Upgrader at the Albian mines in Alberta that was damaged in a fire incident April 15.
Calgary-based Canadian National owns 70 percent of the Scotford Upgrader northeast of Edmonton, which is operated by Shell Canada. The fire broke out at the facility's expansion area - known as the “North Upgrader," at approximately 8:45 a.m. on April 15, 2019, while it was being shut down for a planned 38-day period of maintenance.
According to the BOE Report, the fire was quickly extinguished and no one was injured.
Operations at the "South Upgrader" were not impacted. However, the cause of the fire at the "North Upgrader" is still being investigated and an assessment is underway to determine the extent of damage and the cost and timing of repairs.
Athabasca oilsands in Alberta  Canada.
Athabasca oilsands in Alberta, Canada.
Howl Arts Collective (CC BY 2.0)
In the meantime, Canadian National is expecting production at the northern Alberta Albian oilsands mines to be reduced to about 245,000 bpd versus the company’s previously targeted gross curtailment production volumes at the Albian mines of 255,000 bpd, owing to the Alberta governments ordered oil curtailment program, reports Global News.
Canadian Natural says the South Upgrader will continue to produce a restricted volume of about 200,000 bpd of synthetic crude this month. The company will continue to operate other assets in Alberta, the U.K. portion of the North Sea and Offshore Africa.
What is an upgrader?
An upgrader is a facility that upgrades bitumen (extra heavy oil) into synthetic crude oil. They are usually located close to oil sands production and can be found in the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada or the Orinoco tar sands in Venezuela.
File photo: A pipeline under construction from Fort McMurray  AB to the Scotord Plant in Fort Saskat...
File photo: A pipeline under construction from Fort McMurray, AB to the Scotord Plant in Fort Saskatchewan
To convert the heavy bitumen into synthetic crude that will flow through pipelines, either fractional distillation or chemical treatment is used to reduce the viscosity of the heavy oil. Believe it or not, but bitumen is 1000 times more viscous than light crude oil.
Scotford’s upgrading process adds hydrogen to the bitumen breaking up the large hydrocarbon molecules, a process called hydrogen addition or hydrogen conversion. The Scotford Upgrader has its own hydrogen manufacturing unit and produces most of the hydrogen required for the hydrogen-addition process.
The Scotford Upgrader is actually comprised of three operating units: the Upgrader, a Refinery, and a Chemical plant. Much of the output of the Scotford Upgrader is sold to the Scotford Refinery. Both light and heavy crudes are also sold to Shell's Sarnia Refinery in Ontario. The rest of the synthetic crude is sold to the general marketplace.
More about Canadian National Resources, Albian mines, oilsands upgrader, production curtailment, Edmonton Alberta
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