Wildfires in Western Canada recede, energy output resumes

The number of fires burning in Canada’s top energy-producing province of Alberta declined in recent days, allowing some companies to restore oil and gas production that had been shut earlier in the month.  

Alberta had 71 fires, 20 of them out of control, as of Tuesday afternoon, said Christie Tucker, wildfire information officer. That’s down from 93 fires, including 26 out of control, on Friday. Cooler temperatures and rain are providing relief as more firefighters are scheduled to join the 1,700 with Wildfire Alberta and 1,123 from other parts of Canada and the US. New arrivals are expected later this week from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

“Many of the major wildfires burning received some rain, which means these are good days for firefighters to make real progress on containing these fires,” Tucker said.

While the situation has improved, this year already is the second worst on record, with 1.17 million hectares (2.89 million acres) burned with the remainder of the summer left to go, Tucker said. The year 1984 was the worst with 1.3 million hectares burned over the entire fire season lasting into the fall.

NuVista Energy Ltd., which curtailed production by the equivalent of about 35,000 barrels of oil a day between May 5 and 22 due to fires in the Grande Prairie area, resumed most of its operations over the weekend. Daily output is up to 65,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, and “if rain and favourable winds occur as forecast,” production may rise to 80,000 barrels or more, the company said. 

Chevron Corp. resumed partial operations in the Kaybob Duvernay shale producing region, outside the active fire area, the company said on its website. Operational sites within the fire zone remain shut and operations will resume when it is safe, the company said.

Gas exports to the US jumped 24 per cent to 5.4 billion cubic feet a day, the highest since May 5, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The rash of infernos that began earlier this month shut about a fifth of Canada’s natural gas production at times and prompted the evacuation of about 40,000 residents. Between 240,000 and 280,000 barrels a day of Alberta’s crude production currently is down because of wildfires, and, for May, production may be off by 480,000 barrels a day when maintenance work is included, according to a note from consultancy ESAI.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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