Canada crude - Synthetic rises on upgrader maintenance

Fri Mar 1, 2013 4:29pm EST
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* April synthetic last seen at $5/bbl over WTI

* April WCS last quoted at $28/bbl under WTI

CALGARY, Alberta, March 1 (Reuters) - Canadian synthetic crude oil prices rose on Friday as traders expect a heavy spring maintenance schedule for oil sands upgraders.

Light synthetic crude for April delivery last traded at a $5.00 per barrel premium to the West Texas Intermediate according to Shorcan Energy Brokers, up from a Thursday settlement of $3.00 per barrel over the benchmark.

Spring maintenance work is expected to begin at Suncor Energy Inc's hydrogen plant by month's end, market sources said. The planned 14-week shutdown will lower production from Upgrader 1, one of two plants that convert mined bitumen into synthetic at Suncor's extensive Fort McMurray project site.

The company also expects to start a full shutdown of Upgrader 1 in the second quarter. Lasting an expected seven weeks, the maintenance will mean a complete loss of the facility's 100,000 barrels per day of synthetic output.

Heavy oil prices weakened with a heavy maintenance schedule expected from refiners in the U.S. Midwest.

Western Canada Select heavy blend last traded for $28 per barrel under West Texas Intermediate, compared with a settlement price on Thursday of $26 per barrel under the benchmark.

Planned work is already underway at the 362,000 bpd Wood River, Illinois, refinery co-owned by Phillips 66 and Cenovus Energy Inc. As well Exxon Mobil Corp is expected to close its 238,000 bpd Joliet, Illinois, refinery for 5 weeks of maintenance beginning in April.