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Canadian Natural Resources hits record oil production amid rising U.S. demand

CNRL (Canadian Natural Resources Limited) Horizon oilsands upgrader near Fort McMurray, Alta. The Canadian Press Images/Larry MacDougal

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. drew on its abundant reserves to set a slew of production records last quarter, boosting its bottom line.

The Calgary-based company churned out 1.42 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the fourth quarter, up nearly 10 per cent year over year to break its all-time quarterly production record.

It also achieved record quarterly natural gas production with 2.23 million cubic feet per day, capping off record oil and gas volumes for the full year.

The increase came as demand for oil in the United States rose 3.4 per cent year over year in October, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The U.S. imports more Canadian petroleum and gas than all other countries combined.

Spurring demand was a host of new export terminals along the Gulf of Mexico, which helped drive an ongoing boom in oil and liquefied natural gas shipments out of the U.S.

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The higher volumes saw Canadian Natural boost its net earnings to $2.63 billion in its fourth quarter from $1.52 billion a year earlier.

The company also said Thursday it will raise its quarterly dividend to $1.05 per share, up from $1 and the third time in a year the payment to shareholders has gone up.

Like other Canadian oil producers, the firm is awaiting the startup of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. It said Thursday it has committed to shipping 94,000 barrels per day on the twinned line, which will give Alberta oil producers additional export capacity to the West Coast.

The project is about 98 per cent complete and expected to launch into service in the second quarter, Canadian Natural said.

The additional export capacity is also expected to have a beneficial impact on the Western Canada Select differential — the price discount Canadian heavy oil producers typically have to absorb on their product in part due to lack of pipeline egress.

Canadian Natural reported revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31 of $9.55 billion, down from $9.69 billion.

On an adjusted basis, the company said it earned $2.34 per diluted share from operations, up from $1.96 per diluted share a year earlier.

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