Suncor delays major maintenance at oilsands plant as COVID-19 surges

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Infections have been surging in the Wood Buffalo region, home to the oilsands

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CALGARY — Canada’s Suncor Energy will delay major maintenance at its oil ands base plant in northern Alberta until at least June as the region battles a COVID-19 outbreak, the company’s chief executive said on Tuesday.

The confirmation of the delay to maintenance on the U2 upgrader, which has capacity to produce 240,000 barrels per day, comes as infections have been surging in the Wood Buffalo region, home to Canada’s vast oilsands.

Wood Buffalo has more active cases per capita than anywhere else in Alberta, and the province has the highest rate of infection in Canada. The country is the world’s fourth-largest crude producer.

The oilsands are in the middle of their busiest season for maintenance, which involves flying thousands of extra workers onto sites and housing them in workcamps. Union officials have said many tradespeople are reluctant to travel to the oilsands in the middle of Alberta’s third wave.