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Oxy Sees More Red Ink, $5.4B Impairment, But Production Grows

Occidental Petroleum Corp. (Oxy) on Thursday reported increased production but a 4Q2015 loss, including $5.4 billion in charges mostly because of commodity price impairments.

Losses in 4Q2015 totaled $129 million net (minus 17 cents/share), compared with net income of $580 million (72 cents) in 4Q2014. For the full year, earnings were $91 million (12 cents), compared with $3.7 billion ($4.83) in 2014.

The results for 4Q2015 included a $5.17 billion loss (negative $6.78), versus a loss of $3.4 billion (negative $4.41) in 4Q2014. Full-year 2015 showed a net loss of $7.8 billion (negative $10.23), from net income of $616 million (79 cents) for 2014. Oxy finished 2015 with $4.4 billion in cash.

The Houston-based operator is slowly pulling back in the United States and overseas. It exited the Williston Basin in North Dakota late last year (see Shale Daily, Oct. 16, 2015). And it plans to exit the Piceance Basin this quarter and portions of its Middle East plays by mid-year. The emphasis in the United States will continue to be in the Permian Basin, where Oxy reported continued production growth and operating efficiencies.

Last November, Oxy’s Permian production hit 120,000 boe/d, a goal that originally had been set for 2016, leading to a 35,000 boe/d increase in the region’s output last year, 47% higher than in 2014, said COO Vicki Hollub.

The company's worldwide production increased to 658,000 boe/d from 572,000 boe/d in 2014.

Hollub said Oxy expects growth this year to be in the 2-4% range through its core assets, not counting planned asset sales.

"Overall U.S. production is expected to decline slightly this year, primarily due to declines in natural gas and natural gas liquids caused by curtailment of drilling in our natural gas assets late last year," she said.

Jody Elliott, president of domestic oil/gas operations, said the rig count would be reduced to between two to four rigs in Permian this year as part of continuing efforts to cut costs, improve efficiency and prepare fields to be able to ramp up when commodity costs turn upward. "We're well positioned when prices recover," Elliott said.

The executives emphasized Oxy's concentration on enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations the search for more "longer-life reserves" in future merger-acquisition activities.

"We'll continue to look at assets that have longer-life reserves," said Hollub, adding that the company has a strong shale position too, but over time Oxy will keep that portion of the portfolio at about 20% of its overall business. "We don't ever want [shale production] to be much higher than 20%,” she said.

Hollub said Oxy wants to add to its position in EOR in the Permian, given the company's long history in that basin. "We have the infrastructure there that really can't be duplicated by any other company," she said. "We can continue expansion of our EOR operations in the Permian, so for us that would be one of our higher priorities."

Elliott said a key for Oxy will be developing the ability to do "multi-bench" development in the Permian, ensuring that field development plans allow the company to economically develop more than one good bench at a time. "That's part of what the redeployment effort of our technical staff has to figure out."

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