Wildfire Threatens Major Oil Sands Production Facilities

Posted by | 05/18/2016 | Oil News

A huge wildfire raged near Fort McMurray, Alberta and threatened major oil sands production facilities, forcing the evacuation of thousands of workers and prolonging a shutdown that cut Canadian oil output.

Where plants and trees was removed to stop its spread, moving north of Fort McMurray into oil sand camp areas a critical firebreak jumped late Monday. Some 8,000 workers were evacuated in the heavily forested northern area of the province.

The uncontrolled blaze covered 355,000 hectares (877,224 acres), up from 285,000 hectares on Monday. The fire on Tuesday combusted a 655-room lodge for oil sands workers about 35 kilometers (20 miles) north of Fort McMurray and threatened other home.

High temperatures and winds were working against firemen, and the fire was forecast to move to the east, placing oil operations in its path, officials said.

None of the oil sands have caught fire, and the sector was redoubling efforts to ensure facilities were well-protected, said Alberta wildfire manager Chad Morrison.

“As a result of the cleared vegetation, lots of gravel on site and because they will have an industrial firefighting service on site that comprehends this … we feel reasonably confident the sites themselves will be acceptable,” Morrison told a news conference.

The lost Canadian production of 1 million barrels a day represents about one-quarter of total Canadian output. Canadian crude oil prices strengthened in light trading on Tuesday and International oil prices touched a six-month high, with the Alberta outages among variables adding support.[O/R]
Associated Coverage

Canada authorities says confident Alberta and widening fires can fight

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said westerly winds were expected to push the fire closer to facilities operated by Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO), among the place’s biggest operators, and Syncrude, bulk owned by Suncor, on Tuesday.

Suncor said its Firebag facility will move to minimal essential personnel, although Syncrude has evacuated most of its workforce to Edmonton but left a minimum staff of some 100 individuals at its Mildred Lake upgrader and Aurora Mine and began an orderly shutdown of its base plant businesses.

The fire also threatened Enbridge Inc’s (ENB.TO) Cheecham crude oil tank farm south of Fort McMurray, but Notley said the fire line built there has held and winds were blowing from the facility.

TransAlta Corp’s (TA.TO) Poplar Creek cogeneration power plant, operated by Suncor and providing electricity to its website, was also shut by early Tuesday because of the wildfire.


In Ottawa, federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said he planned to have talks shortly with energy companies to assess the damage from but gave no further details.

Associated Coverage

Suncor purchases rare North Sea petroleum as Canadian fire roils supplies

Notley said the numbers of the Conference Board were in the range of the government’s estimates.

The premier added the state had the resources to fight the fire and hasn’t underestimated the fire. There are almost 1,800 fire fighters fighting 17 wildfires across the western Canadian province, with four of them out of

Canada has declined help from allies including Australia and the USA. Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Ottawa had full trust in Alberta’s ability to fight the blaze.

Fort McMurray’s around 90,000 residents were forced to flee almost two weeks ago as the fire raged through neighborhoods and destroyed about 10 percent of the city the of ‘s structures

With new explosions in the city damaging 10 houses and hot spots still a threat, Notley isn’t yet permitting residents to return.