(Adds comments from AGM)
By Nia Williams
CALGARY, Alberta, April 27 Suncor Energy Inc
, Canada's largest energy producer, is still evaluating
opportunities for oil sands acquisitions in northern Alberta as
foreign oil majors exit the high-cost region, Chief Executive
Steve Williams said on Thursday.
However, the company has a high bar in terms of return on
investments and did not feel any pressure to agree on another
oil sands deal, Williams said.
International players are selling their stakes in oil sands
projects because of factors such as weak global crude prices,
the higher cost of operations compared with U.S. shale plays,
and limited export pipeline capacity out of western Canada.
Williams said there are a number of companies that have
talked about an interest to move away from Canada's oil sands.
"I have heard Total talk about their share, I have heard BP
talk about their share, I have heard Chevron talk about their
share, so there are potential opportunities there," he told
reporters after Suncor's annual general meeting in Calgary.
Reuters has reported that BP Plc and Chevron Corp
are weighing selling their stakes in the sector.
Total owns 29.2 percent of the Fort Hills oil
sands mining project, in which Suncor is majority owner and Teck
Resources owns the other 20 percent. Williams said at
the right price it might be possible to buy a greater stake in
Fort Hills but that was not top of his agenda.
Suncor bought Canadian Oil Sands and Murphy Oil's
stake in the Syncrude project last year, making it the majority
owner of the 350,000-barrel-per-day project.
This year, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips
and Marathon Oil Corp have dumped about $22.5
billion worth of oil sands assets.
"The exodus from oil sands by a lot of the big international
companies I don't think is quite finished yet so there may well
be some incredible opportunities," Williams said, speaking on
Suncor's first-quarter earnings call earlier on Thursday.
"I don't think there are many companies out there now with
the balance sheet capable of purchase," he added, referring to
Some Canadian energy industry players also say they see a
limited pool of oil sands buyers and prices could move lower in
The sector is becoming concentrated in the hands of a few
domestic companies, such as Suncor, Cenovus Energy and
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.
Williams said the oil sands required focused operators with
deep expertise to develop technology and ensure global
(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Chizu Nomiyama)