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CALGARY, Alberta, April 15 Petro-Canada
PCA.TO has laid off nearly a third of the workers in its oil
sands division as its major project, the C$21-billion-plus
($17-billion-plus) Fort Hills venture, remains stalled in the
oil industry downturn, the company said on Wednesday.
Petro-Canada, which is in the process of being taken over
by Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO), has given out 200 layoff notices
this week, spokeswoman Kelli Stevens said.
Stevens stressed the cuts are not related to the takeover,
which won U.S. antitrust approval on Wednesday.
"The major thing is definitely Fort Hills," she said.
"We've got that project on hold and we've tried to keep people
busy by working down the costs on the project and other tasks
related to its future. But as time goes on we have more people
than we have work."
Petro-Canada would be the operator of Fort Hills, in
northern Alberta, once it is built. The estimated cost of the
project took a big jump last year, just before oil prices
tumbled. Petro-Canada's partners in the project are Teck
Cominco Ltd TCKb.TO and UTS Energy Corp UTS.TO, which is
itself a takeover target for French oil major Total SA
The development is among more than C$90 billion worth of
Alberta oil sands projects that have been deferred or canceled
since last October as energy and financial markets were thrown
into disarray by the recession.
Suncor has put a C$20.6 billion expansion of its oil sands
plant on hold as well.
The layoffs extend a recent spate of job cuts in the
sector. So far it has been contractors to the oil sands
developers that have been forced to cut deepest.
At the end of 2008, Petro-Canada employed 6,000 people in
total and its oil sands division had about 700, including some
employees in shared-services roles.
Stevens said no more job cuts are expected before the
takeover by Suncor closes sometime after shareholders vote on
the deal in early June.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Peter Galloway)