05/25/2015 14:02 EDT | Updated 05/25/2016 01:12 EDT

Fires force Cenovus, Canadian Natural Resources to close Alberta oilsands sites

CALGARY - Forest fires have forced Cenovus Energy and Canadian Natural Resources to shut down their oilsands operations near Cold Lake in eastern Alberta, accounting for close to a 10 per cent loss of the province's daily production of oilsands crude.Cenovus (TSX:CVE) pulled all 1,800 workers from its Foster Creek oilsands and Athabasca natural gas operations Saturday after the fire threatened to cut off the only access road to the facility."About 1,700 people were basically woken up really early on Saturday morning and a safe and orderly evacuation began," Reg Curren, Cenovus' senior media adviser, said Monday.The company initially kept a skeleton crew of about 100 workers on site to try to keep operations running, but decided later to completely shut the facility and pull out the rest of the workers by helicopter. Curren said the fires don't pose an immediate threat to the site.The Foster Creek operation, which is jointly-owned with ConocoPhillips, normally produces 135,000 barrels a day.Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) also evacuated all 250 workers on Saturday from its 80,000-barrel a day Primrose facility and reduced production at its Kirby South operations by 18,000 barrels a day to 12,000 barrels a day.In all, the fires have resulted in lost production of about 233,000 barrels of oil a day.The fires have doubled in size since Saturday, when they spanned about 4,000 hectares.

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