UPDATE 4-Hundreds more oil sands staff evacuated on Alberta fire threat

Tue May 26, 2015 6:53pm EDT
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(Updates with Narrows Lake evacuation)

By Scott Haggett and Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta May 26 (Reuters) - Statoil ASA, MEG Energy Corp and Cenovus Energy Inc evacuated hundreds of workers from three oil sands projects in northeastern Alberta on Tuesday as wildfires raged through the key crude-producing region.

The latest evacuations are in addition to project shutdowns by Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd over the weekend, as companies rushed to remove staff from potential danger.

At least 233,000 barrels per day of oil sands production, 9 percent of Alberta's total oil sands output, have been suspended because of the fire risk, though none of the projects have been damaged.

The Alberta government said there are 70 forest fires now burning in the province, with 20 considered out of control. Lightning storms are forecast for Tuesday evening, increasing the risk of more fires, a government spokesman said.

Cenovus evacuated all 90 staff from its Narrows Lake oil sands project on Tuesday, which is not yet producing crude after construction was deferred last year.

The company also shut down its Birch Mountain natural gas plant northwest of Fort McMurray.

Statoil evacuated around 110 non-essential employees from its 20,000 bpd Leismer project as a precaution, although production is unaffected and the company does not anticipate shutting down operations. About 75 employees remain on site for now.   Continued...