04/26/2017 17:20 EDT | Updated 04/26/2017 17:40 EDT

Suncor Energy reports net earnings of $1.35 billion on higher prices, production

CALGARY — Suncor Energy is reporting net earnings of $1.35 billion or 81 cents per share in the first quarter of 2017, compared with $257 million or 17 cents a year earlier, thanks to higher commodity prices and oilsands production.

The company reports operating earnings of $812 million or 49 cents per common share, beating the 31 cents estimated by a consensus of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

A year ago, it posted an operating loss of $500 million or 33 cents per share.

Suncor says it had total upstream production of 725,100 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the three months ended March 31, compared with 691,400 boe/d in the year-earlier quarter, driven mainly by its increased ownership interest in Syncrude Canada acquired during 2016.

Oilsands production came to 448,500 barrels per day in the first quarter of 2017.

Suncor cut its expectation for its share of Syncrude production this year by 15,000 barrels per day to between 135,000 and 150,000 bpd because of a fire at Syncrude's Mildred Lake oilsands upgrader on March 14.

It added 15,000 barrels of oil equivalent to its expectations for non-oilsands production at 110,000-120,000 boe/d to leave its overall guidance unchanged.

"Our commitment to operational excellence remains a top priority and we will continue to seek ways to become more efficient, including development of regional synergies with Syncrude," says CEO Steve Williams in a statement.

"We were able to partially mitigate the impact of the Syncrude incident by making use of Suncor's operational flexibility and that's an indication of the future benefits of integration."

Suncor says it reached agreement with other Syncrude consortium members during the first quarter to develop regional synergies at Syncrude through integration with Suncor's oilsands mining works.

Suncor increased its ownership of Syncrude Canada last year from 12 per cent to over 53 per cent by buying Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., which had a 37 per cent stake, and adding Murphy Oil's five per cent interest.