CALGARY, Alberta, April 30 (Reuters) - Canadian Oil Sands Ltd, the largest shareholder in the Syncrude Canada Ltd joint venture, said on Thursday it swung to a loss in the first quarter as oil prices dropped by more than half.
The company, which has a 37 percent stake in the Syncrude project, said its net loss was C$186 million ($154.1 million), or 38 Canadian cents per share, compared with a net profit of C$172 million, or 35 Canadian cents, in the first quarter of 2014.
Canadian Oil Sands said its loss came on sharply lower oil prices, as well as non-cash losses in U.S. dollar debt. It sold its synthetic crude for C$55.95 per barrel, on average, in the quarter, down from C$105.73.
Sales volumes from its share of Syncrude's synthetic crude oil averaged 107,300 barrels per day, up 1.9 percent from 105,300 bpd in the year-prior quarter.
Operating costs were C$35.71 per barrel, down 24 from C$46.91 per barrel in the year-earlier quarter on lower natural gas and diesel costs, as well as cost-cutting initiatives.
The Syncrude project, which can produce 350,000 barrels per day, has a history of unplanned shutdowns caused by equipment malfunctions, particularly at its complex upgraders, which convert tar-like bitumen stripped from the oil sands into refinery-ready synthetic crude.
The other Syncrude partners are Imperial Oil Ltd ; Mocal Energy; Murphy Oil Corp ; Nexen, a wholly owned subsidiary of China's CNOOC Ltd ; Sinopec and Suncor Energy Inc.
Canadian Oil Sands' cash flow, a measure of its ability to pay for new projects, fell 79 percent to C$76 million, or 16 Canadian cents a share, from C$357 million, or 74 Canadian cents a share.
Canadian Oil Sands shares closed at C$13.11 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday. The shares have fallen 43 percent over the past 12 months compared with a 25 percent drop in the exchange's energy index. ($1 = 1.2067 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Richard Chang)