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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Imperial Oil Ltd said on Friday it is shutting down its 82,000 barrel a day Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, refinery before the onslaught of Hurricane Earl, the first fuel plant on the continent's East Coast to do so.
Imperial, Canada's second-largest integrated oil producer and refiner, will leave only essential personnel at the refinery during the storm, spokesman Pius Rolheiser said.
"We're currently in the process of a safe and systematic shutdown, Rolheiser said.
The company is taking the measure as a precaution, he said. Earl was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on Friday as it headed to New England and Atlantic Canada.
The Canadian Hurricane Center warned residents in parts of the Maritime provinces to be on alert for tropical storm conditions, with winds gusting up to 70 mph (110 km/h). The storm was forecast to hit Nova Scotia early Saturday.
Dartmouth is directly across the harbor from Halifax on Nova Scotia's southern coast.
Rolheiser said Imperial would begin resuming refinery operations once it was safe to do so. The outage was not expected to mean fuel shortages for the company's customers, he said.
Irving Oil, which runs Canada's largest refinery, the 300,000 bpd plant in Saint John, New Brunswick, said earlier on Friday that it was monitoring the storm and making preparations for rough weather.
But the company said it did not expect operations to be affected.
Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson