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Wildfires Disrupt Canadian Oil Sands Operations

Wildfires in northern Alberta continued to disrupt some oil sands operations as Cenovus Energy demobilized this week non-essential staff at its Sunrise project as a precaution amid heat and wildfire alerts in the area.

At present, output at Sunrise, which produces about 48,900 barrels per day (bpd), remains unaffected.

“As a precaution, we are demobilizing those staff who are not directly involved in operations from our Sunrise site,” a Cenovus spokesperson said on Tuesday, as carried by Fort McMurray Today.

“However, operations remain unaffected,” the spokesperson added. 

The Sunrise project, 100% owned and operated by Cenovus, is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Imperial Oil, whose Kearl oil sands project is about 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Fort McMurray, has said its operations remained unaffected by the wildfires on Tuesday.

At the end of last week, Suncor shut down an oil sands project in Alberta amid wildfires. The Firebag project has a capacity of 215,000 barrels of crude daily. Suncor said that it would keep the site ready to return to full operation as soon as possible.

Two months ago, authorities in Fort McMurray issued an “extreme” wildfire danger for the forest area that could threaten to shut in or disrupt some Canadian crude oil or natural gas output in the coming weeks.

Indeed, the wildfires shut down some production at the time but it was quickly brought back online.

Albertan oil producers booked a record high production for May in the latest sign of growth for an industry that has seen more challenges than others on the way to growth. Oil sands operators produced 3.68 million barrels of oil daily in May, which was 254,000 bpd higher than the output for May 2023.

The Alberta Energy Regulator last month said in a report it expected oil production in the province to grow by over 17% by 2033, reaching a rate of 4 million bpd. Most of this would come from in situ bitumen operations rather than oil sands mines, the regulator said.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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