CNRL Says Fire Affected Output in Alberta Oil Sands to Return this Week


CALGARY, Alberta, June 8 (Reuters) - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd expects two oil sands projects in northern Alberta to return to normal rates of production this week, the company said on Monday, more than two weeks after output was first shut in by wildfires.

Around 233,000 barrels per day (bpd), or roughly 10 percent of total oil sands production in Alberta, the largest source of U.S. oil imports, was shut in because of uncontrolled wildfires burning in the region.

One blaze cut off access to CNRL's 80,000 bpd Primrose site, forcing the company to halt operations and evacuate staff, while it also cut back production at its 30,000 bpd Kirby South project to 12,000 bpd after a third-party pipeline was shut down.

Fellow Canadian oil company Cenovus Energy Inc also evacuated its 135,000 bpd Foster Creek project in northern Alberta, which it operates as part of a joint venture with ConocoPhillips.

The 32,000-hectare (79,000-acre) fire in the Lac la Biche area near the CNRL and Cenovus oil sands sites is still classed as out of control by the Alberta government, but has not grown in recent days.

Oil sands workers were allowed back onto evacuated sites last week.

"The repairs to equipment were minor in nature and have not impeded our ability to ramp up production volumes," CNRL spokeswoman Julie Woo said.

In its most recent update on operations, Cenovus said start-up activities were progressing as planned and Foster Creek was expected to be fully operational by Monday.

Western Canada Select heavy blend crude for July delivery was last trading at $7.55 per barrel below the West Texas Intermediate benchmark, little moved from Friday, when it settled at $7.60 per barrel below WTI.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis; and Peter Galloway)


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