Fires force Cenovus, Canadian Natural Resources to close

Closures account for 10% loss of Alberta's daily crude production.

CALGARY — Forest fires have forced Cenovus Energy and Canadian Natural Resources to shut down their oil sands operations near Cold Lake in eastern Alberta, accounting for close to a 10% loss of the province’s daily production of oil sands crude.

Cenovus pulled all 1,800 workers from its Foster Creek oil sands and Athabasca natural gas operations Saturday after the fire threatened to cut off the only access road to the facility.

“About 1,700 people were basically woken up really early on Saturday morning (May 23) and a safe and orderly evacuation began,” Reg Curren, Cenovus’ senior media adviser, said.

The company initially kept a skeleton crew of about 100 workers on site to try to keep operations running, but decided later to completely shut the facility and pull out the rest of the workers by helicopter. Curren said the fires don’t pose an immediate threat to the site.

The Foster Creek operation, which is jointly-owned with ConocoPhillips, normally produces 135,000 barrels a day.

Canadian Natural Resources also evacuated all 250 workers May 23 from its 80,000-barrel a day Primrose facility and reduced production at its Kirby South operations by 18,000 barrels a day to 12,000 barrels a day.

In all, the fires have resulted in lost production of about 233,000 barrels of oil a day.

The fires have doubled in size since May 23, when they spanned about 4,000 hectares.

© 2015 The Canadian Press

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