UPDATE 1-Total sells 10 pct of Fort Hills project to Canada's Suncor

Mon Sep 21, 2015 10:44am EDT
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(Adds comments from Suncor and background in paragraphs 3-8. Adds Calgary to dateline)

PARIS/CALGARY, Sept 21 (Reuters) - French oil and gas company Total said on Monday that it has sold 10 percent of its planned 180,000 barrels-per-day capacity Fort Hills project to Suncor Energy for around $230 million.

Total said it had decided to reduce its exposure to Canadian oil sands projects in the context of lower global oil prices.

Suncor president and chief executive officer Steve Williams said the deal provides a new opportunity and that his company could absorb further investments in 2015 for Fort Hills within its current budget for the year.

"The opportunity to acquire an additional interest at a discounted price underscores Suncor's confidence in its position within the oil sands," said Williams in a statement.

"We consider this project to be one of the best opportunities for long-term sustainable growth in the industry today, thanks to the exceptional quality of the resource and our disciplined project execution."

Oil and gas companies in Alberta, home to vast oil sands deposits and the largest source of U.S. crude oil imports, have laid off thousands of workers in recent months due to slumping global prices.

The bitumen deposits in the oil sands are the world's third-largest crude reserves, but are more expensive to produce than conventional oil because the production requires vast amounts of energy and water.

Oil sands operating costs have already been squeezed as much as 25 percent at some projects, as global crude prices plummeted from more than $100 a barrel in June 2014 to around $45 a barrel in March.   Continued...