CNRL says production could be nearly halved due to power grid concerns from fire

CALGARY – Oilsands executives fear the wildfire that has burned swaths of the Fort McMurray, Alta., region could create gaps in the northern Alberta power grid, leading to more shutdowns of crude production.

President Steve Laut of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) says the Calgary-based company’s Horizon oilsands mine and upgrader would have to choke output back to 70,000 barrels per day from about 130,000 bpd if its access to external power is cut off.

He says electricity generated on site would allow the facility to continue to produce on a limited basis.

He says Horizon, which is 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, has had only minor setbacks mainly from pipeline outages from the fire, which prompted 80,000 people to be evacuated this week.

A number of oil companies have been affected by the fire, including Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU), which shut down its base plant operations at its mining complex just north of Fort McMurray on Wednesday night.

The facility had been operating at a reduced pace since Tuesday.

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