Suncor refinery knocked out until March by extreme cold weather

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Extreme cold weather in the United States has knocked out operations at Suncor Energy Inc’s Commerce City refinery in Colorado until late March.

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Canada’s oil and gas giant said it shut down the refinery on Dec. 24 after “extreme and record-setting weather” damaged equipment.

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Some of the damage included a pump fire on Dec. 19. Suncor says another fire broke out on Dec. 27 as the company was working to shut down the entire refinery to conduct inspections and repairs, Canadian Press reports. There were no reported injuries.

An Arctic blast brought bitter cold and life-threatening wind chills across a wide swath of the United States last week.

The Weather Service reported that on Dec. 21 the temperature plummeted by 37 degrees in one hour at Denver International Airport — from 42F to 5F — a record drop at that location.

Suncor said inspection and repairs continue and it expects the refinery will return to full operations by late in the first quarter of 2023 after a progressive restart.

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The 98,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Colorado represents about 21 per cent of Suncor’s refining capacity, according to Scotiabank analysts led by Jason Bouvier.

Scotiabank estimates the outage will have about a two per cent impact on 2023’s cash flow and considers it a “modest negative.” The repairs are expected to cost less than $20 million and Suncor is exploring whether lost profits can be recovered through its business interruption insurance, wrote Bouvier in a note Thursday.

Suncor has been under intense scrutiny since last spring over its poor track record on safety, including five workplace fatalities since 2020.

Additional reporting by Reuters, The Canadian Press

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