NW Natural Gas Company, dba NW Natural (NYSE:NWN) reported net income for the first quarter of 2011 of $40.8 million, compared to net income of $43.6 million in the first quarter of 2010. Earnings per share were $1.53 in the quarter, down 7 percent from $1.64 for the first quarter of 2010, which included a net $6.1 million pre-tax benefit from a refund of property taxes. “Our utility operations performed well in the quarter, reflecting the proactive efforts we’ve taken to control costs and improve productivity,” said Gregg Kantor, NW Natural President and Chief Executive Officer. “In addition, we were pleased with the recent conclusion and regulatory approval of our joint venture to develop gas reserves on behalf of our customers. It will provide real value to our customers and shareholders.” First quarter 2011 financial and operating results Consolidated results of operations produced net income of $40.8 million ($1.53 per share), compared to $43.6 million ($1.64 per share) in last year’s quarter. The company’s utility operations earned $40.1 million ($1.50 per share), compared to $40.9 million ($1.54 per share) in the same quarter of 2010. Gas storage contributed net income of $0.7 million (3 cents per share) in the 2011 quarter, compared to net income of $2.5 million (9 cents per share) in 2010’s first quarter. Other non-utility financial results included a small loss in 2011’s first quarter, compared to a gain of 1 cent per share in 2010’s first quarter. NW Natural concludes Encana gas transaction On April 28, 2011, the OPUC approved the company’s joint venture investment with Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. to develop gas reserves on behalf of NW Natural’s Oregon customers. NW Natural’s investment is expected to amount to approximately $45-55 million a year, over a five-year-period, for a total investment of about $250 million. The investment will cover a portion of expected drilling costs in exchange for working interests in two sections of the Jonah Field, located north of Rock Springs, Wyo. The sections include both future and currently producing wells.