Canada — Two oil companies announced Monday the temporary shuttering of their Canadian oil sands mines and the evacuation of hundreds of staff as a massive forest fire creeped close.
The combined Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Limited facilities account for 233,000 barrels of oil produced per day or 10 percent of the region’s total upstream oil production.
Some 1,800 workers were sent home from Cenovus’s Foster Creek operation — which is jointly owned with ConocoPhillips — after the wildfire burned to within 25 kilometers of the only access road leading to the facility, the company said in a statement.
The oil plant itself is not threatened by the fire, it added. It usually produces an average of 135,000 barrels of oil per day.
Canadian Natural’s Primerose operations — which produce 80,000 barrels of oil per day — were also temporarily shut down as a precaution. Local media said an unspecified number of staff were airlifted to safety.
And production at Canadian Natural’s Kirby South operations have been reduced by 18,000 to 12,000 barrels per day.
“Once the forest fire is under control and it is deemed safe to return to our site, operations will return to normal as soon as possible,” Cenovus said in a statement echoed by Canadian Natural.
However, no clear timeline has been set.
Despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters using aircrafts and bulldozers to put it out, the blaze about 300 kilometers northeast of Edmonton has continued to spread.
And the Alberta government warned, “Hot, dry weather is forecasted to continue for at least another week, threatening to further elevate wildfire hazard.”
On Friday, the pilot of an air tanker died in a crash at a nearby military air weapons range.