Edmonton (Canada): The majority of the oil sands industry has stopped production and will only start back up when it is "absolutely safe" but that should happen soon, Alberta's premier said after meeting with company officials to discuss the impact of a massive wildfire that destroyed more than 10 percent of the homes and buildings in Canada's main oil sands city.
Suncor chief executive Steve Williams, the head of Canada's largest oil company, yesterday said about a million barrels a day went offline but said some of that has already started to come back. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the massive oil sands mines north of Fort McMurray have not been damaged.
But the wildfire that broke out a week ago has forced as much as a third of Canada's oil output offline and was expected to impact an economy already hurt by the fall in oil prices. Alberta's oil sands have the third-largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Its workers largely live in
Fort McMurray, a former frontier outpost-turned-city whose residents come from all over Canada.
Notley said getting pipelines and electricity operational are priorities. She said getting production back online will be a matter of "days and short weeks."
"The majority of production has stopped, certainly not all of it, but the majority. If that were to continue for a month or two you would start to see measurable outcomes to our GDP," Notley said
Notley said the halted production affects the livelihood of thousands of Canadians, with both companies and the government losing revenue. She said the main highway into Fort McMurray and to the mines to the north has been reopened for oil workers but they are not allowed to visit the city.
Officials said 85 to 90 percent of Fort McMurray remains intact, including the downtown district. About 2,400 homes and buildings were destroyed, but officials said firefighters saved 25,000 others in the city, including the hospital, municipal buildings and every functioning school.
A plan is being put together within two weeks so most of the 88,000 evacuees can return to their homes. The fire continues to grow outside the city in Alberta's vast boreal forest after merging with another one and now is about 884 square miles (2,090 square kilometers) in size. That includes areas already burned and currently burning.