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Syncrude fire caused by line failure, naphtha leak

Syncrude Canada says it’s figured out the cause of Tuesday’s fire at its Mildred Lake Upgrader north of Fort McMurray. Spokesperson Will Gibson says there was a line failure that caused an oil-based thinning agent to leak and spark the explosion and flames.

Naphtha is a highly flammable hydrocarbon mixture that’s created in the bitumen-upgrading process. The fire started in a plant where hydrogen is added to product.

The fire is still burning but it’s considered under control at this point. The site is closed off, but almost all employees in the rest of the facility are back to work. It’s unclear when production at the upgrader will start back up.

The worker injured Tuesday afternoon is in stable condition in an Edmonton hospital recovering from serious injuries. Occupational Health and Safety staff are still waiting for it to be safe enough to investigate, while the Alberta Energy Regulator is monitoring the air quality.

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