Crude price back above break-even for Canada oil sands producers

Fri Apr 17, 2015 4:31pm EDT
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(In U.S. dollars unless noted)

By Scott Haggett and Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta, April 17 (Reuters) - Bolstered by a weak Canadian currency and robust demand from U.S. refiners, Canadian heavy oil prices have rebounded off first-quarter lows and surpassed the break-even point for most producers, easing pressure on a sector that has slashed budgets and staff.

The price of Western Canada Select, the country's benchmark crude grade, is trading for around C$55 ($45) per barrel, up nearly C$20 per barrel from its mid-March lows thanks to improved market access and U.S. refinery demand ramping up after seasonal maintenance.

The price rise is balm for an oil sands sector that not long ago was preoccupied with cutting spending and lowering costs.

Though no one is yet forecasting a return to fat profits that producers enjoyed when oil rose above $100, current prices are robust enough to cover costs and push netbacks, an industry term for gross profits per barrel, into the black.   Continued...