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Force Majeure Declared as Oil Plant Shutdown Continues

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The owner of the Horizon oil sands plant that was shut down after a fire in early January has declared force majeure as officials continue to assess damage, according to Reuters.

In declaring force majeure, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is released from contractual obligations for January because of an event it cannot control.

The Jan. 6 explosion and fire injured five workers, and investigators were unable to access the site to assess damage for nearly a week. The Canadian Pressreported on Jan. 11 that they had been allowed back into one control room to check fire damage. Other than that, a stop-work order issued immediately after the incident by Alberta Occupational Health and Safety remains in effect.

The company has said damage to some of its equipment is minimal, and the upgrader may soon be able to run at half capacity while repairs are done, according to the Canadian Press.

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Canadian Natural told reporters that the fire broke out in one of four coker drums that convert the thick bitumen extracted from the oil sands into crude that can be refined. One of the drums is out of operation, two are working and one needs to be checked for damage, company vice-chairman John Langille told the media.

A timetable was not given; repairs can take from a few weeks to several months, Reuters said. About 10 percent of Canada’s synthetic crude, or 110,000 barrels per day, are produced at the plant.