Tar sands production in Canada pretty much shut down by Fort McMurray wildfire

Flames rise in area south of Fort McMurray, Alberta May 3, 2016. [Reuters]

Almost all of Canada's tar sands production has been shut down by a raging wildfire in Alberta's Fort McMurray region.

Oil production in the region will only start up again when it is "absolutely safe," Alberta's Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday, but the restart will likely happen within a matter of days or a few weeks.

The black tar in the earth under Alberta represents the world's third largest oil reserve, behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

The massive Fort McMurray wildfire has destroyed over 10% of all homes and buildings in Canada's main oil sands city.

If the current “majority of production stop” were to continue for a month or more, “you would start to see measurable outcomes to our GDP," said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

From the Associated Press report this afternoon:

Suncor chief executive Steve Williams, the head of Canada's largest oil company, said about a million barrels a day went offline but said some of that has already started to come back.

Premier Notley said the massive oil sands mines north of Fort McMurray have not been damaged.

Shell Canada said it had resumed production at its Albian Sands mining operations but at a reduced rate after a seven-day closure.

The wildfire that broke out a week ago has forced as much as a third of Canada's oil output offline and was expected to impact an economy already hurt by the fall in oil prices. Alberta's oil sands have the third-largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Its workers largely live in Fort McMurray, a former frontier outpost-turned-city whose residents come from all over Canada.