Photographer: Darryl Dyck/Bloomberg

Suncor Resumes Oil-Sands Operations After Wildfire Shutdown

  • 4,000 workers back in region; 3,500 more expected to return
  • Cooler weather, days of rain improved conditions, Suncor says

Suncor Energy Inc. restarted oil-sands operations near wildfire-ravaged Fort McMurray, enabling thousands of people to return to work.

Suncor and other oil-sands operators reduced output by more than 1 million barrels a day of this month as wildfires spread in the region and forced evacuations and the shutdown of pipelines and power supplies. “Cooler weather and several days of precipitation” have improved conditions, Canada’s largest energy company said in a statement on Sunday.

Alberta lifted mandatory evacuation orders for the last of the accommodation and production sites on Monday, which started the process of inspections by forestry and health officials to make sure they’re safe. Officials say industry facilities are no longer at immediate risk as firefighters take advantage of better weather to keep the flames at bay.

Suncor said 4,000 employees and contractors are back in the region, including Fort Hills workers, with an additional 3,500 people likely to return in the coming week. Suncor shares fell 0.4 percent to C$35.75 at 1:24 p.m. in Toronto.

The company also reported operations are under way at the base plant mine and MacKay River, with initial production expected by the end of this week, according to the statement. No timeline was given for the joint venture with Syncrude Canada Ltd. Syncrude spokesman Leithan Slade wasn’t available to comment.

Notley Update

Other companies that shut operations during the fire include Husky Energy Inc., which will include an update on its Sunrise oil-sands operations at the company’s investor day later this week, said spokesman Mel Duvall, in an e-mail.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley plans to discuss the re-opening of Fort McMurray at a media briefing later today. Some 80,000 people were forced to evacuate the city in northern Alberta earlier this month as the fire destroyed some of the town’s neighborhoods.

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