(Adds comments from AGM)
By Nia Williams
CALGARY, Alberta, April 27 (Reuters) - 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 potential buyers.
Some Canadian energy industry players also say they see a limited pool of oil sands buyers and prices could move lower in response.
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 competitiveness. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Chizu Nomiyama)