Imperial’s first quarter results underscore our disciplined focus on operational excellence, the strength of our integrated business model and our ability to deliver strong results across a range of market conditions. The quarter’s highlights include significantly increased Kearl production volumes, initial production from the Cold Lake Nabiye project, continued strong refinery throughput along with aggressive pursuit and capture of cost savings in the current business environment.
Earnings in the first quarter were $421 million, or $0.50 per share, a decrease of 55 percent compared with the corresponding 2014 period, mainly due to a more than 50 percent decline in global crude prices, partially offset by strong operating performance.
Gross production averaged 333,000 gross oil-equivalent barrels per day, up 3,000 barrels from the first quarter of 2014. Excluding the impact of conventional assets divested in 2014, total production was up six percent or 18,000 barrels per day. With improved plant reliability, Kearl production averaged 95,000 barrels per day (67,000 barrels Imperial’s share) in the quarter, up significantly from the same period in 2014 and the fourth quarter of 2014.
Refinery throughput averaged 393,000 barrels per day, up 15,000 barrels per day from the same period in 2014. Refinery capacity utilization averaged 93 percent, up three percent, as a result of our sustained focus on reliability.
First quarter capital and exploration expenditures totaled $1,050 million, down nearly $200 million versus 2014, as our Cold Lake Nabiye and Kearl expansion projects advanced closer to completion.
Imperial’s response to the current business environment includes an increased selectivity in new capital investments, a sharpened scrutiny of all operating expenditures and ongoing engagement with our suppliers and contractors to improve cost efficiency and productivity. Our extensive, results-oriented approach is strengthening our resiliency, while ensuring the company remains well-positioned to achieve our long-term goals. Above all, our focus remains on delivering superior, long-term shareholder value in whatever business environment we operate in.
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After more than a century, Imperial continues to be an industry leader in applying technology and innovation to responsibly develop Canada’s energy resources. As Canada’s largest petroleum refiner, a major producer of crude oil and natural gas, a key petrochemical producer and a leading fuels marketer from coast to coast, our company remains committed to high standards across all areas of our business.