Wildfires in Canada’s oil-rich province of Alberta have forced oil and gas companies to shut operations, bringing Canada-US gas flow to a two-year low.
Oil and gas production was cut by 319,000 barrels of oil equivalent or 3.7% of the country’s total output. As of Thursday, 92 active wildfires drove more than 10,000 people from their homes.
Officials in Alberta warn of more wildfires ahead of hot and dry days in the country. Even as firefighters progress in tackling the blazes, the shortfall of oil and gas from Canada to the US has caused a price surge.
The amount of gas flowing between Canada and the US fell to 6.4 billion cubic feet per day as wildfires disrupted production. Gas futures gained 13% in the past two weeks in the US as Canadian imports declined. US natural gas futures also gained 2% on Thursday, recording a two-week high.
Alberta produces 80% of Canada’s total crude. The fires have primarily affected Fox Creek, a major centre for the light oil and natural gas facilities, which halted operations as a precautionary measure.
As Alberta goes into a provincial election on 29 May, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s disaster management policies are coming under scrutiny.
Opposition leader Rachel Notley was Alberta’s premier during the 2016 wildfires that caused 88,000 people to flee while destroying 20% of the homes in the oil sands hub. The 2016 wildfires were concentrated in north-eastern Alberta, whereas this year the western provinces containing processing plants and pipelines have become the worst affected.
Smith declared a state of emergency in early May, sought assistance from the federal government and announced emergency payments of $935 (C$1,264) to those forced to flee.
Record temperatures and dry vegetation have caused an early start to the wildfire season. Officials warn the fires could continue for the next few months, reported Reuters. Nearly 2,700 firefighters are currently battling the wildfires, and more are expected to join.