Sun king of the oil sands cas­tle


HIT HARD BY PIPE­LINE DELAYS, the Al­berta wild­fire, and pro­hib­i­tive pric­ing for oil sands crude, Sun­cor, the coun­try’s largest oil sands pro­ducer, still came out on top in 2016. The com­pany held onto large enough cash re­serves to not only beat out com­peti­tors as the top oil sands per­former, but to buy up some of the com­pe­ti­tion, too. By far its big­gest play of the year was the takeover of Cana­dian Oil Sands, the ma­jor­ity part­ner in the Syn­crude megapro­ject. The deal left Sun­cor with a 49 per­cent stake in Syn­crude—from 12 per­cent, pre­vi­ously—and a taste for more. From there, the short leap to ma­jor­ity own­er­ship of Syn­crude would be bridged just three months later when, in April, Sun­cor bought up Mur­phy Oil’s 5 per­cent stake in the project for $937 mil­lion, leav­ing the oil sands gi­ant with a 54 per­cent con­trol­ling in­ter­est in the Im­pe­rial-op­er­ated site when the deal closed in June. Soon af­ter mak­ing the move on Mur­phy, Sun­cor CEO Steve Wil­liams would de­clare to the Cal­gary press that “we ex­pect to be the last oil com­pany stand­ing.” So far, noth­ing about Sun­cor’s ac­tions in 2016, in­clud­ing its ro­bust de­fense of car­bon re­stric­tions, has in­di­cated oth­er­wise.

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