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Suncor defers Montreal refinery project to focus on low-cost oilsands expansions

Suncor president and CEO Mark Little prepares to address the company's annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Suncor Energy Inc. says its on-again, off-again plan to add a coker unit to its Montreal refinery to allow it to process heavier barrels of oil, including oilsands bitumen, is off the table as it shuffles its spending priorities.

On a conference call to discuss fourth-quarter results, CEO Mark Little says the $2-billion project has been shelved as the company focuses on low-cost oilsands expansions, projects to help reduce emissions and digital technology investments to reduce costs.

He says Suncor has also elected to defer sanctioning of its proposed 40,000-barrel-per-day Meadow Creek oilsands project, which would produce bitumen from wells, until 2023 at the earliest.

 Instead, it will invest in boosting production from its existing similar Firebag facility to nameplate capacity of 203,000 bpd by 2021 and then potentially add 20,000-30,000 bpd by 2024-25.

The Calgary-based energy giant reported a net loss of $2.3 billion for quarter ended Dec. 31 due mainly to asset impairment charges of $3.3 billion.

That includes $2.8 billion from lower forecast prices for oil from its Fort Hills oilsands mine in northern Alberta and $393 million for higher capital cost estimates for the West White Rose Project off Newfoundland and Labrador, expected to begin producing oil in 2022.