​Oilsands virus outbreak expands to Canadian Natural’s Horizon

Horizon upgrader Image: Canadian Natural Resources Limited

The coronavirus challenge facing Alberta’s oilsands grew with a new outbreak in Canadian Natural Resources Limited’s Horizon site.

Five cases of COVID-19 have been identified that are linked to the Northern Alberta oilsands mine and crude upgrader, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health for the province, said in a press conference this week. Horizon is the second oilsands site to register an outbreak after Imperial Oil Limited’s Kearl mine’s first cases in mid-April. The Kearl outbreak has grown to 107 cases as of Wednesday, Hinshaw said.

The pandemic is hitting the world’s third-largest crude reserve at a time when several operations undergo maintenance that typically requires thousands of workers to fly in and lodge in close quarters at remote camps. Both Horizon and Kearl are currently going through repair work.

The fact that the pandemic has largely been contained to two work sites out of hundreds across the province indicates that producers have done a good job at preventing infections, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said this week in the press conference.

“This is very limited,” he said.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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