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File pic of the construction on a new phase of the Cenovus Foster Creek SAGD oil sands operations near Cold Lake, Alta., July 9, 2012.

TODD KOROL/REUTERS

Cenovus Energy Inc., the oil sands and refining company, is short one senior executive.

Don Swystun left the company in December. He served as Cenovus's executive vice-president leading the refining, marketing, transportation, and development business. He "will be pursuing other opportunities," Cenovus spokeswoman Jessica Wilkinson said in an e-mail. "I don't have any details on what his plans are."

Mr. Swystun left before Cenovus released its 2014 budget on Dec. 12, she said. Cenovus never made a formal announcement about Mr. Swystun's departure.

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Cenovus is best known for its oil sands operations, where it uses steam and wells rather than mines and trucks to extract bitumen from the ground in northern Alberta. But the company has another side – the refining operation that smooths its financial results when oil prices are rocky.

"Being integrated over the last three years has positioned us well to withstand commodity price volatility and we believe it will continue to be beneficial until we get further clarity in our portfolio of pipeline alternatives," Cenovus chief financial officer Ivor Ruste said during the company's 2014 budget conference call. (Companies are considered "integrated" when they have extraction and processing businesses. Full integration leads to owning operations like gasoline stations, too.)

Brian Ferguson, Cenovus's chief executive officer, put it this way in the call: "This strategic integration improves the stability of our overall corporate cash flow." Cenovus owns 50 per cent of two refineries in the U.S.: the Wood River facility in Roxana, Ill.; and the Borger refinery in Borger, Texas.

Mr. Swystun was also responsible for market access, a critical role as companies sort out how to get oil to refineries as decisions about proposed pipelines drag on and competitors race to secure space on trains.

Cenovus is "actively recruiting" for Mr. Swystun's replacement, Ms.Wilkinson said.

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