Rising consumer demand for fuels from an expanded refinery and retail chain as the Covid-19 pandemic faded helped propel sharply improved financial performance by Cenovus Energy Inc. in the first six months of this year.

The Calgary firm’s downstream chain of 1,073 service stations and five U.S. refineries – two in Ohio and one each in Wisconsin, Illinois and Texas – registered market growth resulting from the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Rebounding crude oil global demand amid roll out efforts of the COVID-19 vaccines, economic recoveries, and declines in crude oil inventories drove improved commodity markets,” Cenovus said.

The average price fetched by Cenovus oilsands bitumen tripled to C$56.71/bbl ($45.37/bbl) in first-half 2021 from C$17.67/bbl ($14.14/bbl) in the same period of 2020.

Production from the Canadian oilsands, the company’s upstream mainstay, rose to 551,500 b/d in first-half 2021 from 380,100 b/d in first-half 2020. 

Total output climbed to 767,600 b/d from 474,000 b/d.

Oilsands operations recorded first-half 2021 earnings of C$1.072 billion ($857.6 million), reversing a loss of C$1.098 billion ($878.4 million) for the same period of 2020.

In Canada, the downstream side achieved tenfold earnings growth to C$185 million ($148 million) in first-half 2021 from C$18 million ($14.4 million) a year earlier.

U.S. refining and marketing losses were cut by 85% to C$63 million ($50.4 million) in first-half 2021 from C$411 million ($328.8 million) a year earlier despite planned and unplanned maintenance and operational interruptions.

The Calgary firm, enlarged by its takeover of Husky Energy Inc. last winter, reported first-half 2021 earnings of C$444 million ($355 million) or C21 cents/share (21 cents/share). That reversed losses of C$2 billion ($1.6 billion) or C$1.65/share ($1.32/share) for the same period of 2020.