April 25, 2018 / 10:37 AM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 2-Cenovus Energy loss bigger than expected as shipping woes weigh

(Adds details on Canadian oil sands, impact of transport issues)

April 25 (Reuters) - Cenovus Energy Inc posted a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss on Wednesday as near-full pipelines increased transportation costs and reduced profit margins.

Canadian oil production is forecast to rise this year after an 8 percent jump in 2017 to a record 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd), but pipelines that carry the crude are operating at near-full capacity, forcing some producers like Cenovus to stockpile excess oil and run production below capacity.

The rise in inventories has pushed up the price difference between Canada's heavy oil and light U.S. crude.

The difference hit about $24.28 per barrel in the first quarter, a 67 percent jump from a year earlier, Calgary-based Cenovus said on Wednesday.

Total oil sands production rose to 359,666 barrels per day in the quarter, from 181,501 barrels per day.

Company-wide netbacks, or profit per barrel, averaged C$16.80 per barrel of oil equivalent in the first quarter, compared with C$21.25 a year earlier, Cenovus said.

The company posted a loss of C$914 million ($711 million), or 74 Canadian cents per share.

Adjusting for some operations the company shut, quarterly loss was 40 Canadian cents per share, while analysts on average expected a loss of 16 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Cenovus has been selling assets to reduce its debt burden after it spent C$17 billion to acquire oil sands and natural gas assets from ConocoPhillips last year.

The company said it is still seeking buyers for its assets in the Clearwater area of the Deep Basin in Western Canada, which current produces about 15,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of natural gas and liquids. ($1 = 1.2857 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Taenaz Shakir in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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