(Adds earning details)
CALGARY, Alberta, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Suncor Energy Inc , Canada's second-largest energy producer, reported a higher third-quarter profit on Wednesday on better oil prices and increased refinery margins, along with higher sales and output.
The Calgary, Alberta-based company's operating profit, which excludes one-time items, was C$1.6 billion, or 96 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30, up from C$867 million, or 52 Canadian cents per share, in the year-ago period.
That was slightly above the average analyst estimate of 95 Canadian cents per share, according to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv.
Suncor also said operations at its majority-owned Syncrude oil project in northern Alberta had returned to normal, after a June outage that led the company to cut its production outlook for the year.
Total upstream production rose slightly to 743,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day, compared with 739,900 in the year-ago quarter.
Refinery throughput was 457,200 barrels per day (bpd), compared to 466,800 in the year-prior quarter.
In northern Alberta's oil sands, where the company has the bulk of its operations, third-quarter output rose 1.4 percent to a quarterly record of 476,100 bpd while operating cash costs per barrel rose to C$22.00 from C$21.60 a year ago.
Suncor said its newest oil sands project, Fort Hills, ramped up to its target operating rate of 90 percent of nameplate capacity, subsequent to the end of the third quarter.
"The ramp up at Fort Hills has gone exceedingly well and the asset is now operating at target rates," chief executive Steve Williams said in a statement.
Suncor reduced it's debt by C$1.2 billion in the quarter and spent nearly C$900 million on share repurchases.
Net earnings were C$1.8 billion, or C$1.12 per share, in the third quarter, compared with net earnings of C$1.3 billion in the year-ago quarter, or 78 Canadian cents per share. (Reporting by Julie Gordon in Calgary, Alberta; Editing by Peter Cooney and Grant McCool)