Oilsands operator Syncrude Canada said Wednesday it was removing nonessential workers from one of its mining sites because of air quality concerns caused by smoke from two nearby wildfires.
Syncrude said on its website that it was moving employees and contractors out of its Aurora mine, but added that its facilities are not at risk.
The move came the same day Cenovus Energy Inc. further slowed production from its Pelican Lake oil operations as forest fires continued to burn across northern Alberta.
Cenovus is currently producing about 8,000 barrels per day at Pelican Lake, down from about 11,000 barrels on Tuesday. Normal output is 22,000 barrels per day.
Its Pelican Lake operations are about 90 kilometres from the devastated town of Slave Lake, Alta.
The flames weren't posing a danger to the site itself, but there's nowhere for the oil to go while power to a nearby pipeline remains cut. Its storage tanks are quickly filling up.
"We expect to remain at about that level until early Thursday morning when our storage tanks will be full," said Cenovus spokeswoman Rhona DelFrari.
"At that time, if the pipeline is still closed, we would have to stop production."
Other companies affected
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and Shell Canada Ltd. also rely on Plains Midstream Canada's Rainbow pipeline to move their crude, and have slowed or shut-in production as a result.
Another portion of the line broke last month, spilling 28,000 barrels of crude. The wildfires have hampered cleanup efforts there.
Pengrowth Energy Corp., Penn West Exploration and Exall Energy Corp. are among other energy names to halt production because of the blazes.
Husky Energy Inc. has facilities to the north and east of the Slave Lake town site, said spokesman Graham White.
"All company facilities in the area have been, and will continue to be, evaluated for potential risk due to the spread of the fire and evacuated or shut-in as required," he said.
"But our shut-ins have been very limited and we've had no material effect on our production."