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ConocoPhillips Production Up 4%, Cuts Capex Again by $2B

ConocoPhillips said its year-over-year (y/y) production from continuing operations, excluding Libya, grew 4% in 2014, fueled by growth from major projects, development programs and a 35% y/y increase in combined production from the Eagle Ford and Bakken shales.

But the Houston-based major said earnings were down for both 4Q2014 and the full-year 2014. It also slashed another $2 billion from its capital expenditures (capex) budget for 2015 -- from $13.5 billion to $11.5 billion -- citing the collapse in world crude oil prices. That followed a 20% cut in December (see Shale DailyDec. 8, 2014).

“We probably should expect -- with some of the modest growth that we’re seeing in demand and the resiliency that we see in the unconventionals having an impact on the supply -- we’re going to be in a more volatile world as we go ahead,” CEO Ryan Lance said in a 4Q2014 conference call Thursday. “We’re trying to build a company that has a solid base of legacy assets [and] low production decline, the things that you can underpin the dividend with over time...and then on top of that we’re moving to a lower cost to supply in the portfolio through the addition of the unconventional portfolio that we’re developing here in North America. That provides us with a lot of resilience and flexibility to the capital.

“We’ll see what the commodity price gives us. We’ll protect the dividend first, and then with what’s left in the cash flow we’ll fund a capital program that will set the growth that we see coming out of that.”

ConocoPhillips reported a 4Q2014 net loss of $39 million ($0.03/share), compared with 4Q2013 earnings of $2.5 billion ($2.00/share). Full-year 2014 earnings were $6.9 billion ($5.51/share), compared with full-year 2013 earnings of $9.2 billion ($7.38/share).

Production from continuing operations, excluding Libya, was 1.57 million boe/d in 4Q2014, an increase of 96,000 boe/d from the preceding fourth quarter. ConocoPhillips said that for the quarterly figure, "the net increase reflects 68,000 boe/d, or 5% growth, after adjusting for 28,000 boe/d from lower downtime and dispositions.

In the Lower 48, fourth quarter production increased by 44,000 boe/d compared to 4Q2013, to 541,000 boe/d, thanks in large part to growth in liquids-rich unconventional plays and an increase in drilling efficiencies. Liquids production grew 17% y/y, which included a 26% increase in crude oil production. The company also said its unconventional production grew by 37%.

"4Q2014 North American activity remained focused on drilling in the Niobrara and Permian Basin in the Lower 48, as well as the Duvernay and Montney [shales] in Canada," the company said in a statement Thursday.

ConocoPhillips said 4Q2014 production was 296,000 boe/d in Canada and 186,000 boe/d in Alaska, increasing 20,000 boe/d and 19,000 boe/d from 4Q2013, respectively.

Meanwhile, y/y production, again excluding Libya, grew 4% -- from 1.47 million boe/d in 2013 to 1.53 million boe/d in 2014. For both the quarter and the full-year 2014, the company said production increased "due to growth from major projects and development programs, partially offset by normal field decline."

ConocoPhillips blamed lower realized prices, higher operating costs and depreciation expenses from higher volumes for lower adjusted earnings for both 4Q2014 and the full-year 2014. The company's total realized price was $52.88/boe in 4Q2014 (compared to $65.41/boe in 4Q2013), and $64.59/boe for the full-year 2014 ($67.62/boe in 2013).

"While 2014 results may seem overshadowed by the current environment, it is important to recognize that in 2014 we delivered on our strategic plan," Lance said in Thursday’s written statement. "We achieved 4% production growth from continuing operations, excluding Libya; realized 8% price-normalized margin growth; and increased the dividend by 5.8%. The company also delivered strong reserve replacement, with a three-year average organic reserve replacement ratio of 153%."

The company said it expects to deliver between 2% and 3% production growth in 2015 from continuing operations, excluding Libya. 1Q2015 production is expected to range from 1.57 million boe/d to 1.61 million boe/d, again excluding Libya.

"As previously announced, [we expect] to significantly reduce [our] unconventional exploration programs in 2015," the company said.

Earlier this month, Lance advocated for expanding crude oil exports (see Shale DailyJan. 15). Using data by the Brookings Institution, IHS Inc. and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lance estimated that expanding crude oil export markets could incentivize about $750 billion in exploration and production investment between 2016 and 2030.

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