* May light synthetic quoted at $10/bbl above WTI
* Suncor, Canadian Natural gear up for oil sands maintenance
* WCS for May $12.75/bbl under WTI
CALGARY, Alberta, April 4 Canadian light
synthetic crude prices rose on Thursday as the market prepared
for scheduled outages at major northern Alberta oil sands
Light synthetic for May delivery last sold for $10 a barrel
over benchmark West Texas Intermediate, up 10 cents from
Wednesday's settlement, according to Shorcan Energy Brokers.
Supplies will be tight in the coming weeks as such oil sands
operators as Suncor Energy Inc and Canadian Natural
Resources Ltd start major maintenance at their
Suncor is poised to start seven weeks of planned maintenance
on the 100,000 barrel per day Upgrader 1 unit at its site north
of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The overall oil sands operation has a
capacity of about 350,000 bpd.
Canadian Natural has said its 115,000 bpd Horizon oil sands
plant will be down for 18 days in May for a turnaround, though
that could stretch to 24 days, according to TD Securities.
Supplies of upgraded light synthetic have tightened in
recent weeks as another major operation, Syncrude Canada Ltd,
has been running well under capacity.
Canadian Oil Sands Ltd, the Syncrude joint
venture's biggest interest owner, said this week the facility
produced 261,000 barrels a day in March, up 9 percent from
February but still well under the facility's 350,000 bpd
Meanwhile, Western Canada Select heavy blend for May was
quoted at $12.75 a barrel under WTI, compared with a settlement
of $13.55 a barrel on Wednesday. That was its smallest discount
since Oct. 3.
Part of the recent strength in Canadian heavies - WCS
fetched $40 a barrel less than WTI in January - has been the
slow start-up of the first phase of Imperial Oil Ltd's
110,000 Kearl oil sands project. That has kept previously
anticipated volumes out of the market, industry sources have
Imperial said early this week it expected to start producing
marketable diluted bitumen from the C$12.9 billion ($12.69
billion) project in "the next few days."