* Initiatives take care of 90 pct of price exposure
* Marketing arrangements, hedging mitigate discounts
* U.S. refinery to be "debottlenecked"
CALGARY, Alberta, Jan 24 Cenovus Energy Inc
has refining capacity, supply arrangements and hedging
contracts in place to deal with 90 percent of its exposure to
deeply discounted Canadian heavy crude oil prices this year, its
chief executive said on Thursday.
Cenovus, known for its Foster Creek and Christina Lake
steam-driven oil sands projects in Northern Alberta, has a 50-50
joint venture with Phillips 66 that involves ownership
in the Wood River refinery in Illinois and Borger plant in
Texas. The companies recently completed a major project to
boost capacity to process heavy crude at Wood River.
The arrangement has allowed Cenovus to withstand the wide
price differentials on Canadian heavy crude that are pressuring
bottom lines across the industry, CEO Brian Ferguson said.
However, Ferguson stressed the company has other marketing
and risk-management initiatives as oil sands production
increases with future oil sands project phases.
"We do start to get a little bit long in heavy oil as we
bring on the next phase of Christina Lake in the third quarter
of this year," Ferguson told investors at a conference in
Whistler, British Columbia. "There are ways also to achieve
economic integration -- not just coking capacity."
Coking is a process in refining that breaks down the heavy
components in the crude so it can be turned into gasoline and
other petroleum products.
Surging oil sands production and tight pipeline capacity
have led to discounts for Canadian heavy crude that have
recently been more than $40 a barrel under benchmark West Texas
Intermediate. That has pushed the price to less than half a
barrel of international benchmark Brent oil.
The industry is anxiously awaiting a decision by Washington
on whether to approve the $5.3 billion Keystone XL pipeline,
which, it is expected, would to reduce the price disparity by
opening up a major new market in the U.S. Gulf Coast region.
Enbridge Inc's C$6 billion ($6 billion) Northern
Gateway project, which would send to oil to the British Columbia
coast for shipment to lucrative Asian markets, is currently the
subject of public hearings.
Some of Cenovus's shorter-term economic solutions include
buying 12,000 barrels per day of firm, or guaranteed, capacity
on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline between
Alberta and the Pacific Coast, and signing a five-year supply
agreement with a refiner at a fixed price spread that is much
smaller than the current market one, he said.
The company has also hedged the price differential on some
of its heavy oil production.
In addition, Cenovus and Phillips 66 are working on ways to
"debottleneck" the 362,000 bpd Wood River refinery to increase
its capacity to process heavy crude by 5 percent to 10 percent,
Cenovus shares were up 44 Canadian cents, or more than 1
percent, at C$33.49 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They are down
about 8 percent in the past year.