CALGARY — Oil and gas companies were shutting down their operations — or thinking about doing so — as wild fires continued to wreak havoc in northern Alberta on Monday.
Penn West Exploration (TSX:PWT) is active in the area surrounding Slave Lake, Alta., a town that has been devastated by the fast-moving flames.
The Calgary-based company has shut in between 25,000 and 30,000 barrels per day of production, chief executive officer William Andrew said in an interview.
“We’re just allowing the firefighters to do their best,” he said.
Just over 100 Penn West staff live in the region and are all safe and accounted for.
Penn West is planning to do a fly-over of its facilities to take stock of the damage.
“We’re not putting anybody on the ground yet. We don’t want to take that chance — just sort of in and out with a helicopter, sort of see what’s going on,” Andrew said.
Penn West won’t restart its operations until it gets the all-clear from authorities.
“Basically it’s a situation right now to try to get these fires under control and then we’ll get in and look at the integrity of our operations and bring them back up slowly and safely,” Andrew said.
Meanwhile, Exall Energy Corp. (TSX:EE) said it has shut in 921 barrels of oil equivalent daily production at its Marten Mountain site.
It had a look at its operations from the air and found they have not been damaged by the fires and did not appear to be under threat.
“The fires currently appear to be south and east of Exall’s Marten Mountain operations. Exall plans to visit Marten Mountain several times over the next few days in an attempt to monitor the situation,” the company said in a release Monday.
Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE) produces oil from its Pelican Lake operation, about 90 kilometres northeast of Slave Lake.
So far, it has continued to produce 22,000 barrels per day of crude from that oil pool, said spokeswoman Rhona DelFrari.
However, the company has had to put that oil into storage tanks since a pipeline carrying crude away from Pelican Lake has been shut down because of the wild fires.
“We’re thinking we may have to shut in production at Pelican Lake some time later on tomorrow if the pipeline doesn’t reopen,” DelFrari said.
The affected pipeline is Plains Midstream Canada’s Rainbow system. A massive oil leak last month shut down a different portion of that pipeline. Cleanup efforts were suspended on Monday because of the fires.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) said it has been working to keep the flames away from a lodge housing staff working on its Horizon oilsands mine.
The fire was about 150 metres from the Chelsea Lodge and so far barriers to keep the fire at bay have worked well.
Meanwhile, the fires have had no impact on any facilities on the Horizon Oil Sands site and “steps have been taken to minimize the potential impact of the forest fires on the Horizon facilities and its operations,” the company said in a release.
Some 1,300 camp residents have been taken out of the area as a precaution. No injuries have been reported.
Another major oilsands producer, Shell Canada Ltd., said its Albian Sands mine has not been affected by the forest fires but that it is keeping an eye on the situation.