Athabasca Oil evacuates Hangingstone project as fire nears

With the Fort McMurray wildfire just five kilometres away, Athabasca Oil is evacuating its oilsands project south of the city.

Oilsands projects south of Fort McMurray begin evacuations as wildfire continues path south

The Fort McMurray wildfires are five kilometers away from Athabasca Oil's Hangingstone oilsands project (CBC)

Just yesterday Athabasca Oil was offering up spots in its Hangingstone oilsands camp for evacuees from Fort McMurray.

Thursday evening, the plant is itself under evacuation, as the fire is now just five kilometres away.

It's a sign of how quickly the situation in Wood Buffalo is changing.

The company said that it evacuated all non-essential personnel Thursday afternoon and is in the process of shutting down the well sites and the central facility. The full evacuation ended Thursday evening.

The Hangingstone facility produces bitumen using a process called steam-assisted gravity drainage, or SAG-D. It is not a mine.

"Athabasca's first priority is the protection of its employees and contractors," the company said in a statement.

"The decision to send field personnel home and shut down production was made as a result of the fire's proximity and elevated safety risk."

On Wednesday, Conoco Phillips and Nexen shut down and evacuated their SAG-D operations south of Fort McMurray.