Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNQ) will proceed with plans to build a C$5.7 billion ($5.7 billion) plant that will convert and refine bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands and capture some of the carbon dioxide emissions.
Construction of the 50,000-barrel-a-day Sturgeon upgrader and refinery northeast of Edmonton will begin next year with operations starting three years later, Calgary-based Canadian Natural said in a statement today. The project may be expanded to handle as much as 150,000 barrels a day.
The Sturgeon project, co-owned by closely held North West Upgrading Inc., includes an agreement by the Alberta government to supply bitumen and guarantee a 10 percent return, part of a program to boost processing in the province. Output from Alberta’s oil sands is expected to double to 3.2 million barrels a day by 2020, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
“They’re at an advantage because they have a locked-in return,” Phil Skolnick, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity Ltd. in New York, said about the Sturgeon project in a phone interview. Slowdowns in other companies’ effort to expand oil-sands processing give Canadian Natural another reason to move ahead, because of less competition for labor.
Suncor Energy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Williams said on Nov. 1 he’s reviewing the company’s C$20 billion Voyageur upgrader project with Total SA because of “challenged economics.”
Canadian Natural has faced repeated shutdowns at its Horizon upgrader in Alberta. The company lowered its estimate today for 2012 production from Horizon to as much as 89,000 barrels a day, from a forecast of 98,000 two weeks ago.
Canadian Natural also reported third-quarter adjusted earnings that missed analysts’ estimates. Net income declined 57 percent to C$360 million, or 33 cents a share, from C$836 million, or 76 cents, a year earlier.
Canadian Natural fell 3.6 percent to C$28.02 at the close in Toronto, the lowest price since Aug. 3. The shares have fallen 27 percent this year.
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