05/26/2015 01:56 EDT | Updated 05/26/2016 05:59 EDT

Alberta Wildfires Force Evacuations At Statoil, MEG Oilsands Sites

Alberta Wildfire Info
CALGARY - Wildfires have prompted more evacuations from oilsands sites south of Fort McMurray, Alta., adding to the list of operators to be affected by out-of-control blazes in northeastern region of the province.

MEG Energy (TSX:MEG) has bused about 900 workers out of its operations in the Christina Lake area, with about 80 staying behind for essential functions, spokesman Brad Bellows said Tuesday.

The facility was undergoing some scheduled maintenance work so there were more than twice as many people on site than would be there ordinarily.

Affected workers have either returned to their homes in Edmonton or are being put up in hotels there while the company awaits word from provincial authorities that it's safe to return.

"The movement of staff off-site was purely a precautionary measure," said Bellows. "There was no imminent danger to our people, most importantly, or to our facilities."

Meanwhile, Statoil Canada has removed more than 150 non-essential employees and contractors from its Leismer project south of Fort McMurray.

About 30 workers are staying behind to keep the around 20,000-barrel-a-day facility running, said spokesman Peter Symons.

"At this point, we haven't had any interruption in our oilsands production and we're just keeping a really close eye on the weather," he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, about 90 workers left Cenovus Energy's (TSX:CVE) Narrows Lake oilsands project 150 kilometres south of Fort McMurray due to a forest fire burning about 15 kilometres away.

Narrows Lake doesn't produce any oil yet and construction work on it has stopped because of low crude prices. A work camp was being completed at the time of the evacuation.

Two workers have also been taken out of Cenovus' Birch Mountain natural gas plant by helicopter.

Its Foster Creek project remains shut down after a precautionary evacuation of 1,800 workers on Saturday. The fire is about 25 kilometres from the site, so for now the infrastructure at Foster Creek is not under threat.

Foster Creek, 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.

So far, it's business as usual at Imperial Oil Ltd.'s (TSX:IMO) Cold Lake oilsands project northeast of Edmonton, which averaged about 152,000 barrels a day of bitumen production in the first quarter.

"It's a dynamic situation," said spokesman Pius Rolheiser. "We're keeping a really close eye on it."

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