(Adds overall Canadian crude production, details on Firebag
maintenance, updates heavy price)
By Nia Williams
CALGARY, Alberta, April 4 A shutdown at the
Syncrude oil sands facility in northern Alberta has curbed
output from ConocoPhillips' Surmont plant, the U.S.
company said on Tuesday, as the shortage helped push heavy
Canadian crude prices to the narrowest discount in nearly two
The 350,000 barrel-per-day Syncrude project cut production
for all of April to zero, according to market sources, following
a fire last month that damaged the facility and forced the
operator to bring forward planned maintenance.
ConocoPhillips has had to reduce production at its 140,000
bpd Surmont thermal plant because it uses light synthetic crude
from Syncrude, one of the largest producers in Canada's oil
sands, to dilute tarry bitumen into a heavy blend that can flow
"(The) Syncrude outage has had an impact on our output, but
we are working with suppliers to understand the timeline as the
Syncrude owners work towards a full recovery," ConocoPhillips
Canada spokeswoman Michelle McCullagh said in an email.
She did not specify the reduction in crude volume, but
combined with the Syncrude outage, up to 490,000 bpd, or nearly
one fifth, of the oil sands' 2.5 million bpd of supply is
potentially off the market.
On top of that Suncor Energy's 180,000 bpd Firebag thermal
plant is also undergoing planned maintenance this quarter,
adding to the shortage of heavy crude.
Canada produces around 4 million bpd and exports about 3.1
million bpd, almost entirely to the United States.
Prices for heavy and synthetic Canadian crude have surged on
tight supply and extended gains on Tuesday.
Western Canada Select heavy blend crude for May delivery
last traded at $10.15 per barrel below the West Texas
Intermediate benchmark, according to Shorcan Energy Brokers, the
smallest discount since June 2015.
Light synthetic crude from the oil sands for May delivery
last traded at $5.30 per barrel over WTI, having settled at
$4.85 per barrel over the benchmark on Monday.
Syncrude is a joint venture majority-owned by Suncor Energy
Inc, while Imperial Oil Ltd provides
operational, technical and business management support.
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Bill Rigby and Richard