Canadian oil producer Suncor forecasts higher annual production, spending

FILE PHOTO: Suncor Energy facility is seen in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Candace Elliott

(Reuters) - Suncor Energy Inc on Monday forecast higher production and spending targets for fiscal year 2021, as the Canadian oil and gas producer bets on a faster rebound in demand and prices from pandemic lows.

The company expects 2021 average production of 740,000 to 780,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, about 10% higher than the midpoint of the forecast range for 2020.

It also set a capital program target of between C$3.8 billion ($2.92 billion) and C$4.5 billion, compared with C$3.6 billion to C$4 billion this year.

Suncor said the budget is largely focused on sustaining capital, given the major planned maintenance programs in oil sands upgrading operations, Syncrude and downstream refineries.

Last week, Suncor said it would become the operator of its Syncrude oil sands joint venture by the end of 2021. Syncrude is majority-owned by Suncor, which has 58.74% stake, with minority stakes held by Imperial Oil Ltd and others.

North American oil and gas companies are restoring drilling of wells shut-in to counter a steep fall in prices earlier this year as the COVID-19 pandemic hammered fuel demand with U.S. crude prices dipping into the negative for the first time ever.

The Canadian company said 2021 refining utilization outlook is expected to improve by about 6% in 2021 to 93% at the midpoint, while it forecasts refinery throughput to be between 415,000 barrels per day (bpd) and 445,000 bpd, higher than the 2020 outlook of 390,000 bpd and 420,000 bpd.

Consumer demand next year is expected to continue to rise from the lows touched in the second quarter of 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, Suncor said.

The oil producer also expects to pay down debt of between C$500 million and C$1 billion and announced a C$500 million share repurchase program for 2021.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath, Sriraj Kalluvila and Sherry Jacob-Phillips