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Pelican Lake-Area Wildfire Prompts Further Oil Sands Evacuations in Alberta

Two more Canadian oil sands producers have been forced to evacuate workers in the face of yet another wildfire breakout.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited and Cenovus Energy have evacuated workers from projects in the Pelican lake area of northern Alberta. Cenovus Energy has evacuated all 18 workers from its Pelican Lake facility, while Canadian Natural Resources has relocated all non-essential personnel from its northern Pelican Lake camp to other Pelican Lake camps that it owns.

The evacuation comes at a time when operations had just begun to recover from a previous bout of wildfires in Fort McMurray—about 100 miles away—which forced 90,000 people to evacuate their homes and shut down oil sands output.

Canadian Natural Resources has shut in 800 barrels per day. A Canadian Natural Resources’ spokesperson said that while the fire is a “safe distance” away from the company’s Pelican Lake operations, non-essential personnel have been moved to other camps as a precaution.

Cenovus employees were evacuated on Tuesday to the nearby town of Wabasca. The company said there has been no damage reported to facilities or infrastructure.

In an update Wednesday afternoon, Cenovus said that the wildfire had been downgraded and was being held, and would allow essential personnel to return to the site. 44 staff members were expected to return by Wednesday night. The company said it would consider restarting production at Pelican Lake on Thursday if conditions warrant.

Cenovus said it had evacuation plans in place if the fire were to threaten the project or if there were air-quality changes, adding that air quality at the site was currently at acceptable levels.

By Lincoln Brown of Oilprice.com

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