(Reuters) - Canada's Suncor Energy Inc reported a profit on Wednesday that beat analysts' estimates as the integrated oil producer reaped the benefits of improved Canadian heavy crude pricing due to Alberta's production curtailments. The government's mandated cuts that came into effect on January 1 have helped free up some pipeline space for the country's crude, sharply reducing a price discount on Canadian versus U.S. oil. Canadian heavy crude prices surged to an average $42.53 a barrel in the first quarter, more than doubling from the previous quarter, and up 10 percent from the year-ago quarter.
The future of these curtailments and other Alberta initiatives such as leasing trains to move crude and bypass full pipelines are uncertain following the election last month of the United Conservative Party.
Suncor, Canada's second largest oil and gas producer, said net earnings rose to C$1.209 billion ($899.62 million) or 93 Canadian cents per share in the three months ended March 31, from C$789 million or 48 Canadian cents, a year earlier.
The company said the overall impact of crude oil and refined product inventory valuation had a net positive impact on its operating earnings of C$288 million in the quarter.
Excluding one-off items, the company earned 77 Canadian cents per share, beating analysts' average estimates of 53 Canadian cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
(Reporting by Debroop Roy and Philip George in Bengaluru and Nia Williams; Editing by Sandra Maler)