November 22, 2011 / 11:55 PM / in 6 years

Major processing unit down at Syncrude Canada

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A major processing unit at the Syncrude Canada Ltd oil sands plant in northern Alberta suffered a disruption on Tuesday and the company, already dealing with an unplanned equipment outage, is working to restart it, Syncrude’s biggest stakeholder said.

Canadian Oil Sands Ltd COS.TO said crews were investigating the cause of a process upset at Coker 8-1, one of two such units at Syncrude’s upgrading plant.

The capacity of the unit, which turns bitumen from the oil sands into refinery-ready light synthetic oil, is about 100,000 barrels a day. Overall, Syncrude can pump out as much as 350,000 bpd.

There is no indication yet when the unit might be restarted, but it will not be overnight, Canadian Oil Sands spokeswoman Siren Fisekci said.

No material changes are expected to operating costs or capital spending at this time, the company said.

Two weeks ago, prices for Canadian synthetic crude jumped when Syncrude said maintenance on a hydrogen unit, which is also part of the upgrading portion of the operation, had been extended by about a month to the end of the year.

Light synthetic crude for January delivery last sold for $4 a barrel over benchmark West Texas Intermediate on Tuesday, according to trade sources.

That is about a $1 smaller premium than deals last week for December volumes, but the latest Syncrude outage comes during a traditionally slow trade period before the beginning of the month.

Canadian Oil Sands, which has a 37 percent stake in the Syncrude oil sands mining and synthetic crude producing venture, said its full-year production target remains at 105 million to 107 million barrels, the revision it made following the delay in the hydrogen plant restart.

Syncrude’s other partners are Imperial Oil Ltd (IMO.TO), Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO), Nexen Inc NXY.TO, Sinopec Corp (600028.SS), Murphy Oil Corp (MUR.N) and JX Holdings (5020.T) unit Mocal Energy.

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson

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