Alberta's energy companies are slowly reigniting oil and gas production in a part of the province affected by massive forest fires, now that a crucial pipeline is almost back in service and evacuation restrictions are easing.
The Rainbow pipeline, which had been shuttered due to an oil spill as well as wild fires around Slave Lake, remained closed Tuesday evening, although its owner had previously said it was scheduled to open Tuesday afternoon.
Rainbow's return will allow some of Canada's largest energy companies to restart oil production at certain projects, although the process will be paced. Almost 150,000 barrels of oil-equivalent production had been shut down last week across northern Alberta, but Rainbow's resumption will begin to alleviate this backlog.
The pipeline's southern leg, from Nipisi to Edmonton, had been shut down last week when the power was cut off around Slave Lake because of Alberta's raging forest fires. That section is still closed, Rina Blacklaws, a spokesperson for Rainbow's owner, Plains Midstream Canada, a subsidiary of Plains All American Pipeline L.P, said in a statement.
"With power recently restored, we're working with area producers to ensure a smooth return to operations," the statement said.
Earlier in the day, however, Ms. Blacklaws said the southern portion would restart Tuesday.
While this 24-inch-diameter line would allow companies like Cenovus Energy Inc. to transport oil, the 20-inch northern portion remains closed because of a spill unrelated to the fires. It leaked about 28,000 barrels of light oil on April 28, and the cleanup was halted when the fire evacuation order hit the area.
Cleanup crews have returned to the spill as evacuees are allowed back in the area, and will be in full force Wednesday morning, Ms. Blacklaws said. Alberta's forest fires did not reach the spill site, she said.