Oil companies struggle to resume operations as Canadian fires blaze on

Published May 17th, 2016 - 12:21 GMT
Charred structures in the fire-damaged city of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, (AFP/Jonathan Hayward)
Charred structures in the fire-damaged city of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, (AFP/Jonathan Hayward)

Employees are on the ground in and around the Fort McMurray area of Alberta to start bringing oil sands operations online, companies said Monday.

Canadian energy company Syncrude said its employees were on the ground surveying operations in advance of the return to normal operations. As of Sunday, the company said it had "several hundred" employees in Fort McMurray working on inspection and commissioning.

"Syncrude continues to monitor the situation and is working with the rest of industry, our regional partners and government agencies to ensure we're prepared in the event wildfire conditions change," the company said in a statement.

Sunday's update from the provincial government in Alberta said the wildfires in Fort McMurray remain "out of control." Nine new fires erupted during the weekend and crews may continue to face new outbreaks as warm, dry weather is expected to last at least until midweek.

The province said public access to the region remains restricted. Only traffic for employees and the supplies necessary for the return to production for regional oil sands operations is permitted.

A short-term market report from the Energy Information Administration in the United States, which counts Canada as its No. 1 oil supplier, said up to 1 million barrels per day were impacted by wildfires that struck the heart of the Canadian oil industry.

Royal Dutch Shell was among the first to start a limited return to production. Last week, energy company Enbridge announced it had restarted some of its pipeline services in the area.

By Daniel J. Graeber 

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