Wildfires in Alberta, Canada’s main oil province, halted production

TORONTO, May 8 (Reuters) – Cooler weather across Alberta on Monday helped firefighters battle widespread wildfires in Canada’s major oil-producing province, but the government said it will be months before all flames are brought under control.

Alberta declared a state of emergency on Saturday in response to wildfires that displaced nearly 30,000 people and prompted energy producers to shut down at least 185,000 barrels of oil per day (boepd), or 2% of Canada’s output.

As of Monday afternoon, 98 wildfires were still active, with nearly 30 classified as uncontrollable.

More than 700 firefighters have been deployed and Alberta has requested 1,000 more from other provinces, who are expected to arrive over the next week, officials said.

The provincial government also registered volunteers with fire fighting skills in the province to help fight the fires. The government wants to use more people across the province with firefighting expertise, especially in aboriginal communities, Alberta Premier Daniel Smith said.

“Some of these fires could go on for months, so if we can use the resources that are already here, the people who can help, we want to be ready to do that,” Smith said at a news conference.

Alberta seeks federal aid

Alberta has formally requested help from the federal government, including military assistance, and Smith spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau earlier in the day.

“We’ve talked a lot about the different ways the federal government can help, and we’ll work to make sure we’re supporting Albertans across the province as needed,” Trudeau said in televised remarks.

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Canada is the world’s fourth largest crude producer, and 80% of its oil comes from Alberta.

The oil and gas shutdown appeared to be temporary and did not have an immediate impact on energy prices, said Mark Oberstötter, head of Americas upstream research at consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

There have been no reports of significant damage to infrastructure so far and production is expected to resume once the wildfires are under control, BMO Capital Markets said in a note.

Canadian natural gas exports to the U.S. fell to 6.7 billion cubic feet on Sunday, the lowest since April 2021, data provider Refinitiv said.

Pipeline company Enbridge Inc ( ENB.TO ) said its assets were operating normally, but the company “expects some minor fluctuations in volumes as some upstream customers may be affected,” according to a statement.

TC Energy ( TRP.TO ) has closed two compressor stations on its NGTL gas pipeline system, which connects most of the natural gas produced in western Canada to domestic and export markets.

“Other sections of the NGTL system and other pipeline systems continue to operate safely and we continue to monitor the situation closely,” TC said in a statement.

Alberta is Canada’s largest cattle producing province. Some ranchers are moving cattle away from the fire to rodeo grounds or other public areas, but no cattle are known to have died from the fire or smoke, said Karin Schmidt, an official with the Alberta Beef Producers Industry Association.

Farmers in some areas are already dealing with drought, and the fires will prevent hay and grass from growing to feed livestock, Schmidt said. ($1 = 1.3319 Canadian dollars)

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Report by Denny Thomas; Editing by Andrew Heavens

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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