Alberta orders evacuation of oil sands-rich Fort McMurray amid wildfire

By Chuan Ong, Genscape

The Government of Alberta has issued a mandatory evacuation order for oil sands-rich Fort McMurray due to a fire ravaging the city, according to a critical alert statement.

The Government of Alberta has issued a mandatory evacuation order for oil sands-rich Fort McMurray due to a fire ravaging the city, according to a critical alert statement.

"All of Fort McMurray is under a mandatory evacuation order. The Fort McMurray International Airport remains open at this time," according to the statement issued at 1147 hrs on May 3.

This evacuation is likely to hamper oil and gas operations for plants with employees living near the city.

"The wildfire one kilometre west of Gregoire in Fort McMurray remains out of control and has burned approximately 2650 hectares," according to Alberta's Agriculture and Forestry Ministry.

At least one energy producer near Fort McMurray has been affected by these fires -- Suncor has cut production at its oil sands close to the hotspots.

"Our plant is 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and in a safe condition. However, we are reducing production at our regional facilities in order to allow employees and their families to get to safety," according to an official release.

Fort McMurray is situated in resource rich Alberta province, which has one of the largest refining and petrochemical industries in Canada, producing ethylene, polyethylene, ethylene glycol and linear alpha olefins. Most petrochemical production occurs in Joffre and Fort Saskatchewan, which has four ethane-cracking plants including two of the world's largest, with a combined annual capacity to produce 8.6 billion pounds of ethylene.

Major monoethylene glycol (MEG) producer and supplier MEGlobal has operations in Fort Saskatchewan, approximately 400 km away.

According to the Government of Alberta, the province produces 2 million b/day of crude oil of which about 75% is raw bitumen from oil sands. Five operating upgraders in Alberta have the capacity to handle 1.2 million b/day of bitumen. Four operating refineries in Alberta have a combined crude processing capacity of over 450,000 b/day.

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