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Evacuation Orders Lifted For 8 Canadian Oil Sands Sites Amid Wildfire

Officials from the Canadian province of Alberta, where wildfires continue to rage, have lifted the evacuation order for eight oil sands operations north of Fort McMurray, where the fires started, but production is still offline, pending a governmental green light.

Smoke is still preventing the resumption of production at the major Suncor and Syncrude oil sands facilities.

The authorities also approved phased re-entry for camps near Nexen's Long Lake, ConocoPhillips's Surmont facilities and camps near Enbridge Inc's Cheecham terminal. All oil worker camps were evacuated due to the fire, but Enbridge now says that its terminal is returning to a state of full operation.

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Last Monday, Suncor said it had ordered the evacuation of 8,000 workers from its oil sands camps in the Wood Buffalo municipality and shut down operations as authorities expanded the evacuation zone north of Fort McMurray, where the wildfires started over three weeks ago. Syncrude Canada has also shut down its oil sands mine and processing plant due to smoke on the site, located north of Fort McMurray. The company said that it evacuated all personnel, some 4.800 of them.

Enbridge’s Cheecham oil sands terminal was also battling the spread of the fire less than one kilometer from the facility. The terminal is approximately 47 miles southeast of Fort McMurray, also in the Wood Buffalo region. About 4,000 workers were removed from camps north of the city run by Noralta Lodge and South Pacific Resources.

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As a precaution, some million barrels per day of oil sands crude production was lost because of disruptions to regional pipelines over a two-week period, and much of that production remains offline.

The fire has caused the evacuation of Fort McMurray's entire population of nearly 90,000. The authorities have said that residents can return home beginning June 1 if conditions are favorable.

By James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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