Nexen CEO Fang Zhi says his thoughts, and the thoughts of the company, are with the families impacted by Friday’s explosion at the Long Lake facility south of Fort McMurray.

“Yesterday marked one of the darkest days in Nexen’s history and standing here today to share this type of information is the worst thing a CEO every wants to do,” said Fang Zhi. “No matter how badly we feel, it pales in comparison to the pain that two of our employees’ families are experiencing.”

At approximately 3:20 p.m. Friday, an explosion occurred in the hydro-cracker unit, a compress building, at the site. The blast claimed the life of one employee and sent another worker to an Edmonton-area hospital for treatment of severe burns.

 “Our motto at CNOOC is that there is nothing so important that it cannot be done safely. Yesterday we did not live up to that standard and I deeply regret it.”

Ron Bailey, Nexen’s senior V.P. of Canadian operations, says the company is providing support to its employees and the families of the victims.

“The two individuals were very valued members of our team and this will leave a terrible mark on all of us at Nexen,” said Bailey. “Having a fatality, or someone seriously injured, is our worst nightmare.

The identities of the victims have not been released.

Immediately following the explosion. leadership in Long Lake, Calgary, and Beijing activated the company's emergency response plan. Bailey says operations at the Long Lake facility have been halted, the site was stabilized and the upgrader was shut down.

Nexen continues to monitor the site to ensure freezing temperatures do not cause additional damage.

Nexen has launched an investigation into the cause of the incident and is cooperating with the investigations of regulatory bodies.

While Nexen would not provide specific details on the activities of the employees within the hydro-cracker unit at the time of the explosion, Occupational Health and Safety officials confirm to CTV Edmonton that the workers were changing valves on a compressor when the blast occurred.

With files from CTV Edmonton