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Oil, steam and natural gas pipelines run through the forest near Cold Lake, Alta.TODD KOROL/Reuters

The market can't seem to get enough of Alberta's oil sands crude these days, and the weakening loonie is only adding to a growing list of positive factors for producers.

Western Canada Select heavy crude blend for March delivery sold on Friday at an unseasonably strong discount of $18.25 (U.S.) a barrel to U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate.

That's a stark contrast from a year ago, when the spread was $36.65 a barrel. Then, the bitumen bubble, or glut of heavy crude supplies within Alberta due to transport constraints, struck fear in the hearts of the oil patch and Alberta government alike as they tallied its revenue-sapping effect.

Now several factors have combined to lift prices, including increased demand from some large U.S. refineries, new transport options across the continent and, for Canadian producers, the falling currency.

As exporters, the foreign-exchange gap helps as companies pay for products, services and labour in Canadian dollars, and sell their production for U.S. greenbacks.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.13 of a cent on Friday to 90.23 (U.S.) cents. On Thursday it slipped below 90 cents for the first time since 2009.

The currency slumped about a cent on the week as the Bank of Canada left its key interest rate unchanged and said that inflation, which is lower than expected, won't return to its ideal target of 2 per cent until 2016.

The currency effect on producers is "starting to gain traction amongst U.S. investors," said Phil Skolnick, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, who rates Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., MEG Energy Corp. and Baytex Energy Corp. as buys among companies pumping large volumes of heavy crude.

Mr. Skolnick said it adds "torque" to other factors supporting heavy crude prices, such as a partial break in the logjam that had prevented supplies from hitting key markets such as the U.S. Gulf Coast. This week, TransCanada Corp. opened the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline between Cushing, Okla., and Texas refineries.

Enbridge Inc. is on track to complete its Flanagan South pipeline link between the Chicago area and Cushing by midyear, and finish the twinning of the Seaway line to Texas from Cushing around the same time. It all spells more than one million barrels of new capacity a day heading to the huge Gulf market.

The new pipelines are in addition to fast-rising crude-by-rail capacity.

Meanwhile, BP PLC is ramping up new equipment at its Whiting, Ind., refinery that boosts capacity to run Canadian heavies by 170,000 barrels a day. Mr. Skolnick pointed out that another big buyer of Canadian crude, Citgo's refinery in Lemont, Ill., will restart a heavy-oil processing unit at the end of this month as it completes repairs following a fire in October.