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NW Natural Reports Results For The Quarter & Nine Months Ended September 30, 2011

Gas deliveries to industrial customers in the first nine months of 2011 were 343 million therms, or 1 percent higher than 341 million therms in the same period last year. Margin from industrial customers increased 1 percent to $21.1 million.

The company’s gas cost incentive sharing mechanism in Oregon provided a margin contribution of $1.3 million in the first nine months of 2011 compared to a contribution of $1.1 million in the first nine months of 2010.

Operations and maintenance costs

Operations and maintenance expense was 5 percent higher in the first nine months of 2011, compared to 2010, primarily due to first-year operating costs at Gill Ranch Storage. The company’s utility operations and maintenance expenses were down $0.1 million from the previous year. Utility bad debt expense as a percent of revenues was well below 1 percent at 0.24 percent for the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2011.

Other taxes

In January 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in the company’s favor regarding litigation with the Oregon Department of Revenue over whether certain inventories held for resale should be taxed as personal property. As a result of the Oregon Supreme Court ruling, the company was refunded a net $6.1 million in the first quarter of 2010 related to taxes paid in earlier years.

Cash flows and capital structure

Cash provided by operations in the first nine months of 2011 was $191.3 million, compared to $114.5 million in 2010. The increase was primarily due to working capital timing differences, partially offset by lower net income.

NW Natural’s capitalization at September 30, 2011 reflected 45.8 percent common equity, 39.6 percent long-term debt, and 14.6 percent short-term debt and current maturities of long-term debt. This compared to 45.9 percent common equity, 40.2 percent long-term debt, and 13.9 percent of short-term debt and current maturities of long-term debt at September 30, 2010.

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