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Big Project Investments Drain Chevron Profits, Output

With a lot of investments still on the line and no production to show for them, Chevron Corp.'s first quarter earnings and revenue fell sharply from a year ago in the first quarter, even with better natural gas price realizations.

The San Ramon, CA-based oil major posted profits of $4.52 million ($2.36/share) on revenue of $50.9 billion. In 1Q2013, the oil major earned $6.18 billion ($3.18/share) on revenue of $54.3 billion. Wall Street's 1Q2014 consensus was profit of $2.54/share. It was the fifth quarter in a row for flat/declining earnings, with revenue down in six of the last eight quarters.

U.S. upstream earnings totaled $913 million, which included a $130 million contribution from higher realized natural gas prices. A year ago domestic upstream profits were $1.13 billion. The average sales price of U.S. natural gas was $4.77/Mcf, compared with $3.11 a year ago. Average sales prices for crude oil and liquids were $91.00/bbl, versus $94.00.

U.S. net  production was 640,000 boe/d in 1Q2014, down 4% year/year. Production increases in the Marcellus Shale in western Pennsylvania and the Permian Basin's Delaware Basin of New Mexico were more than offset by normal field declines. The net liquids component decreased 4% to 438,000 boe/d, while net natural gas production fell 3% to 1.21 Bcf/d.

CFO Pat Yarrington said during a conference call last Friday that earnings and production are slow today but by the end of the year, investments in some of the biggest global endeavors will begin to pay dividends, including in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM).

Over the next two years, she said, Chevron will be turning on massive wells in the GOM, as well as at least one liquefied natural gas facility (Gorgon) in Australia. Gorgon was 80% complete at the end of April, while Wheatstone, also designed to export gas from Australia, is about one-third complete, she said. Gorgon should begin operations in 2015, with Wheatstone in 2016.

One of the most promising GOM projects, the Jack/St. Malo field in the Lower Tertiary, is being commissioned now and should be ready to begin this year, with production facilities moored in the final location, said Yarrington. Tubular Bells, operated by Hess Corp., also is being commissioned and it too should be in service by year's end. The Chevron-operated Big Foot platform follows by mid-2015.

"These are critical contributors to future growth plans," said Yarrington. As well, the shale and tight resource developments in the Lower 48 are a "nice complement."

Onshore activity is most concentrated in the Permian Basin, where it already has drilled 120 wells this year. Like many other explorers, Chevron is most focused on the sweet spots in the Midland and Delaware subbasins, she said.

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