Wildfire intensifies near two Alberta oil-sands sites

Fri May 29, 2015 12:07pm EDT
 
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By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta May 29 (Reuters) - An out-of-control wildfire, burning near two major oil sands projects in the key crude-producing region of northern Alberta, grew in size on Friday, although firefighters were hopeful cold weather moving into the region would help tackle the blaze.

Around 233,000 barrels per day of production, roughly 10 percent of Alberta's total output crude output, was shut in as a result of wildfires across the province, which is the largest source of United States crude imports.

The biggest fire was roughly 15 kilometres from Cenovus Energy Inc's 135 bpd Foster Creek project, and 25 kilometres away from Canadian Natural Resources Ltd's Primrose oil sands facility, according to Janelle Lane, a wildfire information officer for the Alberta government.

It grew to 27,500 hectares on Friday morning from around 20,000 hectares on Thursday afternoon.

Neither Cenovus nor Canadian Natural, both of which shut in production and evacuated workers over the weekend as a precaution, had any updates on the status of operations Friday.

Another 3,300-hectare fire that forced MEG Energy to evacuate non-essential staff from its Christina Lake oil sands project also remained out of control.

Lane said although the fire had grown, lower temperatures and higher humidity were helping firefighters, with a cold front moving into Alberta over the weekend.

"We are going to be expecting some rain for most of the province going into the weekend; whether or not it hits these two fires, we are not 100 percent sure," she said. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)