Canadian Oil Sands to spend $1.46 billion at Syncrude oil project in 2012

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CALGARY - Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. said Thursday its share of spending on the Syncrude oilsands project will more than double in 2012 and that output from the sprawling mine in northern Alberta will increase.

The Calgary-based company (TSX:COS), which owns a 37 per cent stake in the world's largest oilsands mine, has set a capital budget for next year of $1.46-billion, up from this year's expected $691 million.

Output is targeted at between 106 and 117 million barrels in 2012, up from this year's projected range of 105 to 107 million barrels.

About $974 million of next year's budget will be used to build infrastructure that will improve efficiency and environmental performance at the mine for the next 10 to 20 years, the company said.

"Syncrude's focus remains on improving capacity utilization, which offers the best opportunity to add significant value in the near term," CEO Marcel Coutu said in a statement.

Last month, a disruption at one of the Syncrude upgrader's coking units reduced output by about 100,000 per day. A coker breaks down heavier crude into lighter oils, gases, and petroleum coke and is an important step in the upgrading process. The synthetic crude oil that comes out of the upgrader can then be refined into products like gasoline and diesel.

Earlier this week, Canadian Oil Sands said it has the upgrader running at about two-thirds of normal capacity.

Coutu said the company is "disappointed with the pace of utilization improvement," but efforts by ExxonMobil and its Canadian subsidiary Imperial Oil Ltd. (TSX:IMO), which operate the project, should make production rates more predictable and robust over the long-term.

The Syncrude owners