Syncrude upgrader to return to full operation by end of June

A March 14 fire and explosion at the Syncrude Mildred Lake upgrader near Fort McMurray triggered a shutdown of the plant and seriously injured one worker.

Suncor does not expect the outage to change the company's 2017 oil production targets

A fire which broke out at a Syncrude upgrader north of Fort McMurray halted production at the site. (Pete Potipcoe/Facebook)

More than a month after an explosion and fire ripped through part of the Syncrude Mildred Lake oilsands upgrader north of Fort McMurray, the site's main operator says the upgrader will return to full operation by the end of June.

Suncor Energy, the majority stakeholder in Syncrude, said the Mildred Lake oilsands upgrader is currently operating at a reduced rate, but that it does not expect the outage to change Suncor's 2017 oil production targets.

"The investigation and inspection show that damage was largely isolated to a piperack adjacent to the hydrotreater," the company said in a news release Wednesday.

"An accelerated repair schedule has been developed to achieve restart of pipeline shipments at approximately 50 per cent capacity in early May and production is expected to return to full rates by the end of June."

The accelerated repair schedule will include moving up the dates for planned seasonal maintenance to minimize the effect of the outage on production.

The March 14 fire and explosion triggered the evacuation and shutdown of the plant, and seriously injured one worker.

Syncrude has said it would not provide details on the nature of the employee's injuries or recovery, citing privacy concerns.

An initial investigation of the incident found a failure on a pipeline near one of the hydrotreating units caused treated naphtha — a highly flammable hydrocarbon mixture —  to leak, triggering the fire which burned for nearly two days before it was extinguished.

The Mildred Lake upgrader is located 40 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.