Canada's Oil Sands Producers Prepare to Re-Enter Evacuated Sites
(Bloomberg) - All of the Canadian oil-sands facilities that workers fled last week as a wildfire spread are being allowed to prepare for restart as cool, humid weather has helped contain the inferno.
Alberta lifted mandatory evacuation orders for the last of the accommodation and production sites on Monday, which started the process of inspections by forestry and health officials to make sure they’re safe for workers to return. Since late Friday, the province has removed orders that had prevented all but critical staff from remaining on sites connected with the operations of Suncor Energy Inc., Syncrude Canada Ltd., ConocoPhillips and Cnooc Ltd.’s Nexen unit, among others.
Oil-sands operators took more than 1 million barrels a day of output offline this month as a wildfire forced the evacuation of workers and the shutdown of pipelines and power supplies. More than 80,000 people fled the blaze from Fort McMurray and surrounding areas initially, and another 8,000 workers were forced to clear out last week as the fire turned back north of the community, thwarting some production restarts. Officials say industry facilities are no longer under threat as firefighters take advantage of better weather to keep the flames at bay.
“Fire behavior has certainly calmed down,” Laura Stewart, an Alberta wildfire information officer, said by phone on Monday. “Cooler, calmer conditions are definitely helping firefighters make good progress.”
Suncor, Canada’s largest energy company, has been planning for a phased re-entry to its evacuated sites starting as soon as Monday, according to a Facebook post and e-mail from a spokeswoman over the weekend. The company had cleared out three sites that account for the bulk of its upstream production: the base plant mine, MacKay River and Firebag facilities. Suncor didn’t immediately respond on Monday to a request for an update on restart plans.
Syncrude, the joint venture controlled by Suncor, is making progress on a plan to return to operations and will be able to give an update later as to timing for production restart, Will Gibson, a Syncrude spokesman, said Monday in an e-mail. The company had evacuated all but critical staff from its Mildred Lake and Aurora mines.
ConocoPhillips, which had shut down production at its Surmont project south of Fort McMurray on May 5, began the process of bringing workers back on Monday after getting approval. Some have already left for the site and by the end of the week about 350 people will have arrived, Rob Evans, a spokesman, said in an e-mail. There’s no estimated date yet for production restart. The project was producing at about 30,000 barrels a day before the blaze.
The Fort McMurray fire that began May 1 and destroyed about 10 percent of buildings in the energy town hasn’t grown in recent days and the clearing of heavy smoke has allowed officials to get a better handle on its size. The blaze covered an estimated 5,229 square kilometers (2,019 square miles) on Monday, more than four times the size of New York City. The region had received about 5 millimeters of rain over 48 hours through mid-day Monday, not as much as anticipated, though humidity was at about 50 percent and more showers are forecast, Stewart said.
The fire is expected to be Canada’s costliest disaster for insurers and is dealing a blow to Alberta’s energy-dependent economy, already reeling from a market downturn for oil. Evacuation orders remained in place on Monday for the communities of Fort McMurray and Anzac. The province has a phased re-entry scheduled for both communities, starting June 1.
To contact the reporters on this story: Rebecca Penty in Calgary at firstname.lastname@example.org ;Jessica Summers in New York at email@example.com To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Marino at firstname.lastname@example.org Anne Riley
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
Operates 12 Offshore Rigs
- Exxon, BP Targeted in NYC Suit That Relies on 'Nuisance' Theory (Jan 10)
- ConocoPhillips Vows Financial Discipline As Aims To Boost Output (Nov 08)
- ConocoPhillips' Profit Beats Estimates, But Budget Cut 10% (Oct 26)
Company: CNOOC more info
- ExxonMobil Reports More Offshore Guyana Success (Jan 05)
- CNOOC 3Q Revenue Rises; Only Halfway To 2017 Spending Goal (Oct 25)
- CNOOC Completes Test Runs at Huizhou Refinery in Guangdong - Report (Oct 09)
Company: Suncor Energy more info
- Suncor Says Makes Progress In Oil Sands Project Dispute With Total (Oct 26)
- Canadian Oil's High-Priced Run Set to End as Supply Surges (Oct 11)
- Suncor, Total Argue Over Cost Of Fort Hills Project (Jul 27)
Company: Syncrude more info
- Fire Extinguished At Syncrude Oil Sands Plant In Alberta (Jul 10)
- Falling US Oil Output Not Enticing Enough For Wary Investors (Jul 11)
- Firefighters Protect Canada's Oil Sands Battling Intense Flames (May 24)