Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has shut down its Horizon oil sands plant and cut its 2012 production estimate for the project after realizing recent damage to the facility is more extensive than its original assessment.
The company shaved about 11 per cent off its production guidance from Horizon on Monday and said full production will not resume until the middle or end of March. It previously expected to resume production later this month. The problem occurred in Horizon's primary upgrading facility, which was hit by a fire last January and under repairs until August.
The price of oil rallied and CNRL's stock dropped when news of its production problems became public over a week ago. At the time, the oil and gas company said Horizon's troubles would not dent its production target.
CNRL expects Horizon to produce between 93,000 and 103,000 barrels of synthetic oil per day in 2012, down from its previous guidance of between 105,000 and 115,000 barrels of synthetic oil per day. The company said its "fractionating unit" in the upgrading facility is the problem, but provided no further details. The fractionating unit is part of the upgrading facility.
"On February 11, upon gaining full access to the [fractionating unit] Canadian Natural determined the damage to be somewhat more extensive than originally thought, with a current estimated time to return to full production levels now targeted for mid to late March," the company said in a statement. CNRL representatives were not immediately available for further clarification.
CNRL produced 50,354 barrels of synthetic crude per day at Horizon in the third quarter in 2011. The company's synthetic crude is valuable because it flows much more easily through pipelines than unrefined bitumen.
The company said the plant was shut down without injury or "environmental concerns" and no "ancillary winter damage" occurred. Horizon's fire created an extra headache because parts of the facility were frozen following the blaze. Insurance helped cover much of the cost tied to repairing the upgrader after the fire.
CNRL has oil and gas operations in North America, in the North Sea, and offshore West Africa.