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Wildfire prompts more Canada oil sands production cuts

CALGARY, Alberta - Oil sands producers Canadian Natural Resources Limited and Cenovus Energy shut projects and evacuated workers at Pelican Lake projects in northern Alberta as wildfires again threaten western Canadian output just as production begins to recover.

Cenovus shut operations and evacuated all 118 workers from its 23,000-barrel-per-day Pelican Lake project, the company said, while Canadian Natural said it shut-in 800 barrels per day.

"The wildfire is a safe distance from our major facilities at Pelican Lake," Canadian Natural spokeswoman Julie Woo said on Wednesday. "Canadian Natural has moved non-essential personnel from our northern camp to other camps within our Pelican Lake operations."

Average production at Pelican Lake was 47,600 bpd, Woo said, citing first-quarter filings.

The lightning-sparked fire, roughly 75 hectares in size, and blowing away from the facility, is some 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the community of Wabasca, fire official Travis Fairweather said.

More than 30 personnel were fighting the blaze, backed by bulldozers and helicopters dropping flame retardant, Fairweather said. Forecasts called for a chance of rain for Wednesday, a provincial website said.

The Pelican Lake fire is about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of the massive wildfire still burning east of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Last month that blaze forced 90,000 residents to flee the city and shut down more than 1 million barrels per day of oil sands output.

Cenovus said its operations remain closed and there has been no damage reported to facilities or infrastructure.

All Cenovus staffers were evacuated on Tuesday evening to a temporary center in Wabasca, while non-essential workers were sent home.

Cenovus said essential workers remained on standby at Wabasca, and six workers returned on Wednesday morning to inspect the facilities from a safe location.

Husky Energy said its operations in the area were unaffected.

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