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Wildfire Threat Prompts Evacuation Alert at Oil Sands Hub

An evacuation alert has been issued for Fort McMurray, a key hub for the oil sands industry in Alberta amid wildfires in the area.

The Alberta government had four active wildfire alerts on its website as of Sunday night, all at an advisory level—the level it describes as “Prepare to take action” and a step before the critical level, which is described as “Take action now”.

Spring is wildfire season in Canada’s oil country and the blazes sometimes interfere with oil sands production. Reuters recalls an evacuation of 90,000 people in Fort McMurray back in 2016 because of a wildfire, which also shut in about a million barrels daily in oil production.

“We’ve had 11 new wildfire starts overnight across the province due to the conditions, these are the only two that remain out of control,” Alberta Wildfire information officer Melissa Story told Global News on Saturday.

The total number of fires in progress across the province came in at 47, of which eight were being the target of efforts to put them under control while the rest were already under control. The Albertan government says that two-thirds of all wildfires are started by people.

Oil sands production in Canada has grown by 1.3 million barrels daily over the past ten years, to reach 3.3 million barrels daily, Reuters reported earlier this month. It is set for further growth, too, likely to reach 3.8 million barrels daily by 2030, according to S&P Global Commodity Insight. This would be a 15% rise from current production levels.

“Producers have displayed a blend of discipline and adaptability with an ongoing focus on maximizing existing assets through optimization and efficiency while maintaining stronger balance sheets from comparatively higher oil prices,” S&P Global Commodity Insights director of North American Crude Oil Markets Celina Hwang said.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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