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Nexen fined $450k in 2016 death of two workers, takes responsibility

Last Updated Apr 18, 2019 at 11:44 pm MST

A sign at Nexen Energy's Long Lake facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., Wednesday, July 22, 2015. Nexen Energy has pleaded not guilty to all eight charges in relation to an explosion on their site that killed two workers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Nexen Energy, now CNOOC Petroleum North America (CPNA), has been fined $450,000 under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act.

The charges are in relation to an explosion at their Long Lake facility near Anzac that left two men dead on Jan. 15, 2016.

That afternoon, Drew Foster and Dave Williams, who were both Red Seal Certified, worked overtime to finish maintenance inside a hydrogen compressor building.

They finished replacing valves on stage 1 of the Make-Up Gas (MUG) compressor A around 3 p.m.

While it’s unclear who was part of a conversation to do an oil carryover check on stage 2, the agreed statement of facts says Foster, Williams and Jody Ross decided to continue with the check since it would only take “a few minutes.”

During their work, Foster opened a valve releasing pressurized hydrogen gas, causing an explosion.

Williams was sent to the local hospital before being transported to Edmonton.

His body was 80 per cent covered in third and fourth degree burns.

Foster, who opened the valve, died immediately.

CNOOC pleaded guilty in Fort McMurray Provincial Court on Thursday to failing to ensure the health and safety of Foster and Williams.

Quinn Wilson, CEO of CNOOC North America said that the company shouldn’t place blame on the men.

“Drew Foster, David Williams were strong contributors to our company. They were valued and they were working overtime to help us. As an operator we take full responsibility for what happened to those two men that day.”

Wilson said that they have been working on their safety practices to make sure that something similar will never happen again.

 

Court heard 16 victim impact statements from many family members and even a neighbour.

Some having to be read by the crown, or not read aloud at all.

Tracy, Foster’s wife of 24 years told the court about the events that led up to the incident, including her husband’s decision to become a millwright and move across the country.

“Drew was the rock of our family. No amount of time will heal what we’ve lost.”

Tracy Foster said she didn’t even know about the incident until she received a call from her sister.

She told her that she saw that there was an explosion near the city on the news.

By 9 p.m., nearly six hours after the incident, Foster said she called police because her husband still hadn’t returned home from work.

Wilson said that the investigation was very complex, which impacted the time frame for which the family was notified.

Crown prosecutor Alana Elliot read a statement from Dave Williams mother, who wrote that her living room has become a shrine to her late son.

Williams’ father, Michael, wrote that he sometimes visits the cemetery several times a day.

“Day after day. Surgery after surgery for 10 days we hoped and prayed David would be able to fight this, but the condition worsened,”

All the impact statements had one thing in common: it’s been hard to move on.

Judge K.E. Tjosvold and counsel all agreed that negligence came down to communication of whether or not stage 2 was depressurized and at a zero energy state.

Since the incident, CNOOC has updated the Safe Work Permit form to better reflect safety hazards.

They also improved and clarified training material, and hazard awareness training.

Both families declined to comment.

All other charges related to their deaths were withdrawn.