If you're already familiar with the Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU) story, you're probably not too freaked out by the company's weak quarterly numbers. After all, they don't remotely reflect the company's productive capabilities or earning power. The company's oil sands operations were undergoing a major turnaround during the quarter. Expansions to the firm's second bitumen upgrader will allow Suncor to hit its production target of 350,000 barrels a day by mid-2008. In 2006, the company was averaging 266,000 barrels, so this project puts the company right on the path to 15% annual growth.

If you're concerned about the spotty results out of the natural gas segment, that also is a bit quirky. Unlike oil sands players Canadian Natural (NYSE:CNQ) and Nexen (NYSE:NXY), Suncor strategically produces gas for its own internal consumption. Oil sands projects are very energy intensive, and the company needs gas to power its cogeneration facilities. In order to reduce exposure to the whimsical spot market, the company has opted to explore for its own supply.

Rather than pursuing the low-risk model of EnCana (NYSE:ECA), XTO Energy (NYSE:XTO), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), and others of that ilk, Suncor is wildcatting for bigger game. This results in more dry holes and higher finding costs. The approach actually makes some sense when one considers the laser-like focus needed to successfully apply the "assembly-line" model of unconventional gas drilling. People aren't investing in Suncor for its exploration program, and they're not going to dump the shares because of a few dusters.

This quarter's higher costs mask an efficient, low-cost operation. The fact that all capital projects are on time and on budget is noteworthy, considering the labor and resource shortages that have been plaguing the industry for some time now. If you want to play in the oil sand(s)box, Suncor is the way to do it.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't own shares in any company mentioned. Chesapeake Energy is an Inside Value recommendation. The Motley Fool has an intense disclosure policy.