Canadian Natural swings to loss, slows output as oil prices slump

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd posted a quarterly loss on Thursday compared to a year-ago profit, hurt by the sharp decline in oil prices caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Canada’s largest oil and gas producer also withdrew its 2020 production outlook and said it would curtail production by 14% for May due to the current uncertainty around the outbreak of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

Average realized prices for crude and natural gas liquids were cut by more than half to C$25.90 per barrel in the first quarter, before risk management.

Alberta’s hopes of a rebound this year for the Western Canadian province’s long-struggling oil industry have been dashed by the crash in global crude prices, which has forced companies to adopt cost-cutting strategies. Canadian Natural has slashed management pay and its spending budget.

Canadian Natural’s production, however, rose nearly 14% in the first quarter as the company took advantage of the Alberta government’s special production allowance, which permits additional oil output if it moves by rail.

The company said it would shut in 36,000 barrels per day (bpd) of high-cost conventional production while lowering steam-driven oil sands output by 38,000 bpd in May.

At its Horizon bitumen mine, production will be 50,000 bpd lower for May and fall by 80,000 bpd over a two-month period in the second half of the year due to maintenance, Canadian Natural said.

Production at its Athabasca oil sands project will also be 100,000 bpd lower than normal on a net basis in July and August due to maintenance, it said.

The company’s net loss stood at C$1.28 billion ($908.90 million), or C$1.08 per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from a profit of C$961 million, or 80 Canadian cents per share, in the year-ago period.

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