Suncor Energy pleaded guilty to one count of breaking Alberta’s environmental protection law after a release of a poisonous gas at its refinery just east of Edmonton.
A provincial court fined the Calgary-based energy giant $100,000 for the unauthorized release of hydrogen sulphide gas on July 18, 2018.
The gas release took place when a valve in the refinery’s coker unit was not fully closed during the steam drying phase, a news release from Alberta Environment and Parks said Friday.
Five refinery workers were sent to hospital and released later that day, said Suncor spokesperson Melanie Ducharme. Onsite medical staff monitored 17 other workers who were exposed to the release.
Hydrogen sulphide is a poisonous flammable gas that smells like rotten eggs and can cause chest pain, difficulty breathing, vomiting and headaches.
Most of the fine will go to a “creative sentencing project” with the Strathcona Community Hospital Foundation for the purchase of long-lasting respiratory support medical equipment, the release said.
Suncor was scheduled to appear in Sherwood Park Provincial Court on Friday to face seven charges under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act related to the 2018 incident.
The company pleaded guilty to one count of breaching an approval requiring that no unauthorized air effluent streams be released into the atmosphere. The prosecution withdrew the six other counts, Ducharme said.
“We know that this incident had a real impact on people,” she said. “Our goal really is to ensure the safety of our people on site and that goal was not met on that day in 2018, but we remain committed to strong environmental performance and are working hard that something like this doesn’t happen again.”
The refinery is located just west of Anthony Henday Drive in Sherwood Park.