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Energy companies plan for quick and safe restart after Fort McMurray fire

Production at some oil and gas companies near Fort McMurray could start up again within the coming days. Premier Rachel Notley says none of the facilities north of the city were damaged by wildfire. However, they haven’t yet been able to assess ones to the south, like Nexen’s Long Lake and Athabasca’s Hangingstone projects.

“For many operators, there was no wildfire risk, and production continues as before. For those in and around Fort McMurray though, there is an economic consequence for taking production offline; there’s foregone revenue to both companies and the Crown.”

Notley met with representatives of more than a dozen energy companies Tuesday, who all agreed operations will only restart when it’s safe to do so. President and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Tim McMillan says the industry will continue to put safety first when considering restarting production.

“Depending on their location relative to the fire, the type of operation they had, their involvement in the evacuation, their ties to the infrastructure pieces like pipelines and power, and their work force. Each individual operation has a unique set of challenges which they will work through.”

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Timelines could be days, weeks or even months. The first company to shut down was Shell, and they’ve already got operations up and running again. Suncor CEO Steve Williams says the projects further north of the city will likely be next.

“There, you’re thinking of days and maybe a week or so, but you’re not talking longer periods. South, where there have been a few more direct impacts from the fire, we have to go in and evaluate and then put the plans in place.”

The vast majority of production is in the north. It’s estimated the shut downs have taken more than a million barrels of oil off the market. Williams doesn’t expect to see any layoffs, and in fact sees no barriers to moving workers back into camps as Suncor flew out 10,000. He adds there doesn’t seem to be any damage to pipelines, which is a good sign.

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