CANADA CRUDE-Synthetic strengthens ahead of maintenance

Mon Feb 8, 2016 7:20pm EST
 
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* March synthetic trades at $1.80/bbl above WTI

* March WCS trades at $13.70/bbl below WTI

CALGARY, Alberta Feb 8 (Reuters) - Canadian synthetic crude prices strengthened on Monday ahead of a major turnaround at one of Suncor Energy's two oil sands upgraders in northern Alberta, due to start towards the end of the first quarter.

Suncor is planning a major six to eight-week turnaround at its U2 upgrader, which processes mined bitumen into refinery-ready synthetic crude.

The company's two upgraders produce around 350,000 barrels per day combined, and although the company has not specified the production impact of the U2 turnaround, it is expected to take a hefty chunk of synthetic crude supply off the market.

Light synthetic crude from the oil sands for March delivery last traded at $1.80 per barrel above the West Texas Intermediate benchmark, according to Shorcan Energy brokers.

That compares with a settlement of 75 cents per barrel above the benchmark on Friday.

Canada's oil sands plants have a busy spring maintenance schedule ahead, meaning prices are likely to gain some support over the next couple of months.

Last week, MEG Energy said it is bringing forward a planned turnaround at its 80,000 bpd Christina Lake oil sands project, tightening supply of heavy barrels.

Western Canada Select heavy blend crude for March delivery last traded at $13.70 per barrel below WTI, narrowing from Friday's settlement of $14.20 per barrel below the benchmark.

That put the outright price of Canadian heavy crude at around $16 a barrel. (Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Bernard Orr)