MEG Energy evacuates staff as Alberta wildfires threaten region

Tue May 26, 2015 11:42am EDT
 
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CALGARY, Alberta May 26 (Reuters) - MEG Energy Inc said on Tuesday it was suspending operations at its 80,000 barrel per day Christina Lake oil sands project and evacuated non-essential staff as wildfires rage through northeastern Alberta.

MEG said in a statement that there was as yet no safety risk from the forest fires, but it has halted work on a planned maintenance shutdown at its project site, the latest of several oil producers in the region to move staff away from the potential danger.

"As a precautionary measure, we have temporarily suspended operations, including our planned maintenance turnaround," the company said in a statement. "As soon as we have safety clearance regarding fire hazards, we will resume normal operations."

At least 233,000 barrels per day of oil sands production, nine percent of Alberta's total output, has been suspended in Alberta's northeast because of the fire risk, though none of the oil sands projects have been damaged and no injuries reported.

Over the weekend, Cenovus Energy Inc and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd evacuated staff and halted output at two sites as a precaution against the rapidly spreading forest fire. On Monday, Canadian Natural said it also cut production at its nearby Kirby South thermal project to 12,000 bpd from around 30,000 bpd.

Both companies on Tuesday said there had been no other changes to the status of the projects in the region.

Husky Energy Inc said its operations in the Cold Lake oil sands region have not been affected by the blaze, though it has suspended operations at its Muskwa natural-gas processing plant and its Overlea compressor facilities in north central Alberta due to other fires. Six employees were evacuated from the sites.

The Alberta government said there are 66 forest fires now burning in the province and 20 of those, including the one in the Cold Lake oil sands region of northeastern Alberta, are considered out of control. (Reporting by Scott Haggett and Nia Williams; Editing by Andrew Hay)