Canadian Natural, Cenovus resume Pelican Lake operations after fire threat

Thu Jun 9, 2016 5:55pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd and Cenovus Energy said they restarted operations at two oil sands facilities in the Wabasca region of northern Alberta on Thursday after a wildfire threat dissipated.

The companies shut their Pelican Lake projects and evacuated workers as a blaze that has swelled to 75 hectares (185 acres) encroached on facilities over the last two days, marking the second time in five weeks that wildfires have cut western Canadian oil output.

Canadian Natural said on Thursday it had returned to normal operations, including the restart of 800 barrels per day of shut-in production, company spokeswoman Julie Woo said, as firefighters and weather patterns held fires back from its facilities.

The facilities produce an average of 47,600 barrels per day, Woo said, citing first-quarter filings.

Cenovus said it was in the process of restarting production at its 23,000-barrel-per-day project on Thursday after it evacuated all 118 workers and shut down production two days prior.

The Pelican Lake fire was about 160 km (100 miles) southwest of a massive wildfire that was still burning east of the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta. That blaze forced some 90,000 residents to flee the city and shut down more than 1 million barrels per day of oil sands output.

Canadian cash crude differentials held steady on Thursday as market players waited to see how fast crude volumes would come back online after the series of blazes.

The Pelican Lake blaze was being held some 30 km (19 miles) from Wabasca, fire official Travis Fairweather said.

"The fire won't grow any more given the current weather conditions and resources devoted to it," Fairweather said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson and Nia Williams in Calgary; editing by Alan Crosby and David Gregorio)