Alberta wildfires retreat slowly, 10 pct of oil sands crude shut in
By Nia Williams and Scott Haggett
CALGARY, Alberta, June 1 (Reuters) - Firefighters made progress tackling wildfires in the key oil-producing region of northern Alberta on Monday, although a number of oil sands projects stayed shut down, keeping around 10 percent of total oil sands production offline.
For more than a week 233,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude has been shut in after companies with facilities close to uncontrolled wildfires rushed to evacuate staff. The Western Canadian province of Alberta is the major source of U.S. oil imports.
Over the weekend the number of fires dropped to 35 from 42 on Friday. Five were classed as out of control.
The wildfire hazard in the Lac la Biche region, where Cenovus Energy Inc and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd evacuated two major projects, was downgraded to "moderate" from "extreme" by the Alberta government.
The 31,000-hectare (77,000-acre) blaze continued to burn uncontrolled on a Canadian military air weapons range, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Cenovus's Foster Creek site and 25 kilometres from Canadian Natural's Primrose project. The fire did not grow overnight, however.
Cenovus said the military was allowing teams into the weapons range on Monday to assess hazards related to air quality, power lines and wildlife.
"Once the range is deemed safe and any hazards have been addressed, a small group of Cenovus essential staff will be allowed to return to Foster Creek," the company said in a statement. "They will inspect the facility, ensure safety and security systems are operational and begin start-up procedures."
Cenovus had no estimate on when production would resume. Continued...