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Suncor Energy's new CEO aims to cut costs, simplify operations after accidents

FILE PHOTO: The Suncor Energy logo is seen at their head office in Calgary

By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) -The new CEO at Suncor Energy Inc, Canada’s second-biggest oil producer that has been dogged by safety and operational problems, on Tuesday said he would look to cut costs, improve efficiency and simplify operations.

“We need to get on with it,” CEO Rich Kruger, a former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp unit Imperial Oil, said on his first call with analysts since he started in the role in April.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company has had a string of worker fatalities at its oil sands sites in recent years, prompting the resignation of former CEO Mark Little in July.

Syncrude Canada, of which Suncor owns a majority, was charged in April in connection with the death of a worker in June 2021.

“You can expect an intense focus on costs, organizational efficiency and operational support,” said Kruger, who left retirement for the job. “We will become a simpler and more focused organization.”

Kruger said he could not give a timeline for improvements and gave few specifics about the changes, saying Suncor needs to refocus on the basics of running the business.

"It's not rocket science," he said. "It's executing our work exceedingly well."

Suncor reported a bigger-than-expected first-quarter profit on Monday, helped by steady demand for energy amid crimped global supplies.

Suncor last month agreed to buy TotalEnergies’ Canadian operations for C$5.5 billion ($4.11 billion). The deal includes Total's 50% stake in the Surmont facility, which ConocoPhillips operates, as Suncor boosts its long-term bitumen supplies to replace its aging Base Mine.

Kruger said Suncor has reached out to Conoco, which has the right of first refusal on Suncor’s Surmont purchase, to suggest working together.

“We would be a very willing partner that would look to invest and grow value in this asset,” Kruger said.

ConocoPhillips could not be immediately reached.

Suncor shares were little changed, down 0.2% in Toronto.

($1 = 1.3372 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Mark Porter)