No end in sight to oil sands shutdowns – by Shawn McCarthy and Jeffrey Jones (Globe and Mail – May 9, 2016)

OTTAWA and CALGARY — Alberta’s oil sands have been spared a direct hit from the devastating wildfire that forced the shutdown of more than one million barrels a day of production, but it remains unclear when companies can restart operations.

After visiting Fort McMurray on Monday, Premier Rachel Notley will meet the next day with oil company executives to gauge the impact on the province’s biggest industry and discuss plans for getting it back on line.

“Each of these operations and these companies are very sophisticated in terms of the work and capacity to keep themselves safe and ensure their work starts up again in a safe way,” Ms. Notley said on Sunday during a news conference in Edmonton. “But we’ll see if there is anything the province can offer to ensure the safe resumption of economic activity in the area.”

Several of the largest operators in the oil sands have either shut down or reduced operations, as the fire threatened some projects; crews and their families were forced to evacuate, and critical supplies and services were diverted to emergency operations.

It remains unclear how long the oil sands shutdowns will continue. Ms. Notley and company officials refused to speculate.

When Cenovus Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. were forced to shut down last year due to wildfires, it took more two weeks for them to resume operations once the area was declared safe, noted Jackie Forrest, a Calgary-based energy economist with Arc Financial Corp.

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