Wildfires force evacuations, hit power production in Canada

More than 100 wildfires have raged this month, at one point pushing more than 30,000 people out of their homes while oil and gas producers shut in at least 319,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), or 3.7 per cent of national production.

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Wildfires force evacuations, hit power production in Canada
OTTAWA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday was headed to Alberta to meet with soldiers fighting wildfires that worsened over the weekend, forcing evacuations and hitting energy production in Canada’s main oil-producing province over the weekend. More than 100 wildfires have raged this month, at one point pushing more than 30,000 people out of their homes while oil and gas producers shut in at least 319,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), or 3.7 per cent of national production.

Officials in Alberta expect hot and dry weather conditions to continue after they caused an upsurge in wildfires and a rise in home evacuation orders.

“The wildfire situation is extremely volatile”, Alberta Emergency Management chief Colin Blair said.

“For those who are in a community that’s on an evacuation alert, I cannot stress strongly enough the need for residents to be prepared in case there is an urgent need to evacuate.”

“Our peak burning period, which is when the temperatures are at their highest and the fuels are at their driest, is still in front of us,” Alberta Wildfires official Josee St-Onge said at a briefing on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s too soon to say when we’re going to see the peak of this wildfire season. … We are going to continue to be challenged.” By Sunday afternoon, 89 fires were burning across Alberta, with 25 considered out of control and more than 19,000 evacuees. That was up from 74 fires and about 16,500 evacuees on Friday.

Benchmark Canadian heavy crude prices tightened last week to multi-month highs on concerns about the wildfires.

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Late on Sunday, Paramount Resources said that due to the fires a third-party gas processing plant and some Paramount fields were shut, and it had curtailed 45,000 boepd.

Vermilion Energy said on Monday it had restored 60pc of the 30,000 boepd that it previously shut in.

The Canadian army has been helping with firefighting and recovery efforts in the province since Thursday, and more troops are expected to join in the coming days, according to the Alberta government.

St-Onge said officials expect more challenging wildfire weather. “Conditions will remain hot and dry and windy in the coming days.”

In addition to the hundreds of reinforcements who have arrived from across Canada to help fight the fires, including from the army, 200 people from nearby US states have joined in, according to St-Onge.

Trudeau was scheduled to be in Alberta’s capital Edmonton, where he will meet with Canadian Armed Forces personnel, before leaving for Seoul to meet South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, according to the prime minister’s itinerary.

Forest fires in Canada’s oil sands region in 2016 disrupted production and forced out 100,000 residents from Fort McMurray, pummelling the nation’s economy.

In 2021, British Columbia suffered record-high temperatures over the summer that killed more than 500 people, as well as wildfires that destroyed an entire town.

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