Interactive map shows how close 2016 wildfire got to oilsands projects

Deborah Jaremko

The Alberta Energy Regulator’s annual reserves and supply/demand outlook includes a feature this year offering a new view of the wildfire that engulfed Wood Buffalo last spring. 

Recognized as the costliest disaster in Canadian history, the event started as a small fire but escalated quickly and resulted in the emergency evacuation of the entire 80,000-person community of Fort McMurray. It eventually burned 589,552 hectares and destroyed 2,400 structures in the city.

It also shut down over one million barrels per day of oilsands production as facilities scrambled their resources to house, care for and evacuate residents while protecting their assets—which, as can be clearly seen in the AER map, were very much at risk if not directly impacted.

South of Fort McMurray, the wildfire swept across a significant portion of Nexen’s Long Lake SAGD project area, pushed into the corner of ConocoPhillips Canada’s Surmont SAGD leases, and touched the border of Athabasca Oil Corporation’s Hangingstone SAGD project.

To the north of the city, where production was most effected, the wildfire encroached on Suncor’s mining leases while encircling the project on three sides. moving very close to Syncrude’s borders as well.

Destroyed was Horizon North Logistics’ Blacksand Executive Lodge, which is not on the map.

An army of firefighters from across Canada and around the world are credited with saving the majority of Fort McMurray as well as keeping the blaze from levelling oilsands production assets.

Below is an image of the AER map, but in order to experience it fully, one needs to click here and visit the regulator’s interactive version.