UPDATE 1-Cenovus evacuates all workers from Narrows Lake oil sands project

Tue May 26, 2015 6:35pm EDT
 
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(Adds evacuation details, status of other projects)

By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta May 26 (Reuters) - Cenovus Energy Inc evacuated all 90 workers from its Narrows Lake oil sands project in northeastern Alberta on Tuesday as a precaution against wildfires, the company said.

Narrows Lake is Cenovus's third major oil sands project, and currently has no production. Construction began on the project in late 2013 but was deferred last year due to low oil prices.

Cenovus, which shut down operations at its Foster Creek project over the weekend, joined MEG Energy and Statoil in pulling workers from their sites on Tuesday as the wildfire threat across Alberta intensified.

The Alberta government said there are 70 forest fires burning, with 20 considered out of control.

Cenovus said the fire was 15 kilometres northwest of its Narrows Lake site, which lies approximately 150 kilometres south of Fort McMurray.

The company had already evacuated 1,800 workers and shut down production at Foster Creek due to a separate blaze in the Cold Lake region, which threatened the only access road to the site.

Cenovus also shut down its Birch Mountain natural gas plant northwest of Fort McMurray on Monday, and evacuated two workers by helicopter.

Other fires are burning in the vicinity of its Pelican Lake heavy oil and Christina Lake oil sands projects in northern Alberta. "These projects are not currently under threat and are operating normally. We will continue to monitor the progress of these fires and take any necessary steps to protect the safety of our workers," Cenovus said in a statement. (Editing by Grant McCool)