Burlington Resources reported a 32% increase in first quarter earnings to $354 million, or $1.78 per diluted share, and a 14% rise in total production to a new quarterly record of 2,849 MMcfe/d. Commodity price realizations were flat.

CEO Bobby S. Shackouls predicted a “period of sustainable growth” ahead for the company. “Our North American core properties continue performing strongly, while the major international development programs are ramping up during a very favorable price window. Our progress as well as our future prospects give us confidence in our goal of generating 20% cumulative production growth during the three-year period beginning with 2004.”

Burlington’s first quarter production growth included a 4% increase in gas production to 1,953 MMcf/d, a 5% increase in gas liquids (NGL) production to 66,900 b/d and a 110% increase in crude oil production to 82,400 b/d compared to the first quarter of last year. The substantially higher crude oil volumes were attributable to higher production from the Williston Basin in the United States and from start-ups during 2003 of several fields in Algeria, China and elsewhere.

Increases in natural gas and NGL production resulted primarily from higher volumes in the Barnett Shale trend in North Texas, and from properties in South Louisiana and northwestern Europe.

Net cash provided by operating activities increased to 26% to $742 million. At the end of the first quarter, the company’s balance sheet included more than $1 billion in cash and cash equivalents, an increase of $270 million during the quarter.

The company’s realizations for natural gas were $5.31/Mcf, compared to $5.29/Mcf during the same quarter in 2003. Price realizations for NGLs were $22.08/bbl, compared to $22.07/bbl and crude oil price realizations were $29.57/bbl, down from $29.74/bbl during the prior year’s quarter.

Burlington expects strong production growth this year as a result of anticipated increases in both North American and international production. Gas production is expected to grow to 1,870-2,000 MMcf/d with the U.S. accounting for 860-905 MMcf/d and Canada reaching 825-865 MMcf/d.

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