April 4, 2012 / 9:34 PM / 5 years ago

Canadian oil sands output skids in March

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Production at Canada’s biggest oil sands projects, run by Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) and Syncrude Canada Ltd, tumbled in March after unscheduled outages of major processing equipment, prompting investors to push the developers’ shares down.

Suncor, Canada’s largest energy company, said its oil sands production averaged 205,000 barrels a day last month, down 43 percent from 361,000 in February.

On March 13, Suncor shut its Upgrader 2 for three to five weeks to fix a fractionator problem, cutting daily production to about 140,000 barrels.

The upgrader processes bitumen from the tar sands into refinery-ready light oil and diesel fuel.

Canadian Oil Sands Ltd COS.TO, the largest interest owner of the adjacent Syncrude project, said that operation produced an average of 252,300 barrels a day in March, down 21 percent from 320,600 in the previous month.

The company said on March 9 that one of three coker units at Syncrude’s upgrading plant, which had been damaged by what it called a minor fire, would be off line for 30 days, reducing output by about 100,000 barrels a day.

That prompted it to reschedule a planned turnaround of another coker unit that had been set for April.

Shares of Canadian Oil Sands, which owns 37 percent of Syncrude, fell 38 Canadian cents, or 1.8 percent, to C$20.54 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Suncor stock sank C$1.48, or 4.5 percent, to C$31, leading losers on the TSX composite index.

Suncor’s oil sands production numbers do not include its 12 percent share of the Syncrude Canada Ltd joint venture.

($1=$1.00 Canadian)

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; Editing by Peter Galloway

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