Such unintended consequences are happening faster than the Alberta government likely expected, and it should now plan for a “soft exit” from curtailments that is fair to producers, Williams said on a quarterly conference call.
“The rail economics are seriously damaged, and a lot of the rail movements are stopping or have stopped,” he said. “That’s going to have the opposite impact than what the government wants.”
Representatives for the Alberta government could not immediately comment on Williams’ remarks.
Alberta curtailed 325,000 barrels per day (bpd) in January to drain a glut of crude in storage that was caused by congested pipelines. The output cuts boosted Canadian oil prices from record lows last year, but Suncor and other producers that have ample pipeline space and refineries say the sharp correction harmed their integrated businesses.
Williams said that the case for forced curtailments is likely to abate with seasonal maintenance shutdowns by oil producers during the second quarter, and with Enbridge Inc’s Line 3 expansion likely to start filling for start-up later this year.
“You’re going to see the pressure start to come off,” he said.
Suncor’s shares turned positive after Williams’ remarks, edging up 0.5 percent in Toronto to C$43.72.
Alberta eased the curtailments modestly for February and March. Its plan is to reduce the curtailments further to an average of 95,000 bpd through the end of 2019 once storage levels are reduced enough.
Suncor’s comments echo those of rival Imperial Oil , which said last week that it is ending nearly all crude by rail shipments because of the price impact of the curtailments.
Late on Tuesday, Suncor reported a quarterly loss due largely to a one-time charge related to how it accounts for inventory.