The Suncor Energy oil refinery will remain shut down for the next several months after equipment at the sprawling plant in Commerce City was damaged by last week’s “extreme and record-setting weather,” according to a press release issued by the company.
“Consistent with our operational excellence and safe operating practice, on Dec. 24 it was determined that the entire facility would be shut down and put into safe mode to allow for the inspection of all units and repair of the damaged equipment,” the statement read. “The inspection and repair of the damaged equipment is ongoing.”
The Calgary, Canada-based energy company said the facility would be fully operational again by late in the first quarter of 2023, which means the closure could last as long as three months. The company declined to provide any more information about the shutdown on Thursday.
The decision to close follows the release of harmful pollutants at Suncor a week ago after extreme cold triggered a shutdown across the plant’s operations. The excess emissions included hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, opacity and visible emissions, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Metro Denver saw some of its coldest temperatures in decades on Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, when the thermometer didn’t break zero degrees as a high for hours on end.
On Christmas Eve, two Suncor employees were transported to a hospital with burns after a fire broke out at the refinery due to a vapor release.
Suncor is the only oil and gas refinery in Colorado and processes about 98,000 barrels of oil a day. It also manufactures most of the asphalt used to pave Colorado’s roads.
But the refinery is the largest single source of air pollution in the state and is under intense scrutiny because of multiple air pollution violations. In 2020, the company agreed to a $9 million settlement with the state for its violations, and that settlement included more community air monitoring.
Last summer, Suncor installed new automated shutdown systems inside two gasoline-producing plants at its Commerce City refinery to prevent a repeat of a 2019 malfunction that blasted a clay-like substance into the surrounding neighborhood.