09/14/2016 16:14 EDT | Updated 09/15/2017 01:12 EDT

Baytex says combination of factors caused fire, explosion in oil tank in July

PEACE RIVER, Alta. — A Calgary-based oilsands producer has released information about a fire and explosions at its site in northwest Alberta on July 27.

Baytex Energy Ltd. says two blasts occurred in two separate thousand-barrel tanks at its Reno field south of Peace River, with one tank catching fire.

Spokesman Andrew Loosley says Baytex staff, along with a local fire departments, put out the fire a few hours later.

He says there were no injuries and a lone resident in the area did not have to be evacuated.

Loosley says production at the site had been shut in earlier in the year, but one valve was left open and a vent valve that allows gas to flow from the production tanks to the flare stack had been damaged, unbeknownst to the company.

He says air got into the tanks when a vacuum truck removed oil from the tanks, which were not full, on July 21.

"We are very committed to ensuring that we capture and manage all the odours and emissions from the facility," Loosley says.

"When we went through the process of shutting it in, that one valve was left open ... it wasn't shut after that period of time, so combine that with the Enardo valve, and like I said, three factors — you need fuel, you need air and you need a spark."

Baytex uses an unusual method of recovering oil from bitumen which involves heating the substance in large, above-ground tanks.

A group of families who had farms in the centre of the company's Reno field reached a settlement with the company in 2014 after years of  complaints the odours from the tanks were causing a wide variety of symptoms, including dizziness, numbness, diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue.

The company acquired the farms from the families.

Loosley says Baytex will remove the burned tanks at some point, adding he couldn't give a damage estimate.

The company has since checked the Enardo valves on all their facilities to ensure all are working.

"You don't like to have accidents happen but you plan to ensure that you can manage in the event that they do," he says. "I'm pleased to report that all the practice and planning we do in terms of emergency responding all fell into place."