Canadian Natural Resources Limited Management Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNQ)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

March 08, 2012 11:00 am ET

Executives

Corey B. Bieber - Vice President of Finance & Investor Relations

Allan P. Markin - Chairman and Member of Safety, Health & Environmental Committee

Steve W. Laut - Principal Executive Officer, President and Director

Lyle G. Stevens - Senior Vice President of Exploitation

Douglas A. Proll - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance

Analysts

George Toriola - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Greg M. Pardy - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Robert S. Morris - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Canadian Natural Resources 2011 Fourth Quarter and Year-end Results Conference Call. I would now like to turn the meeting over to Mr. Corey Bieber, Vice President, Finance and Investor Relations for Canadian Natural Resources. Please go ahead, Mr. Bieber.

Corey B. Bieber

Thank you, operator, and good morning, everyone. Thank you for attending this conference call, where we'll discuss our fourth quarter and annual 2011 results, which was included in our press release issued earlier today. Participating with me today are Allan Markin, our Chairman; Steve Laut, our President; Doug Proll, our Chief Financial Officer; and Lyle Stevens, our Senior Vice President of Exploitation.

Before I start, I would like to refer you to the comments regarding forward-looking information contained in our press release, and also note that all dollar amounts are in Canadian dollars, and production and reserves are both expressed as before royalties unless otherwise stated. I'll make some initial comments before I turn the call over to the other participants.

I believe the fourth quarter of 2011 was very strong from both an operational and financial perspective, with record quarterly crude oil drilling, total crude oil and NGLs production, total BOE production, and of course, record quarterly cash flow. During 2011, we also replaced almost 4x of our production on a 2B basis and exit with a very impressive 21.4-year proved life -- proved reserve life index or 33.3-year proved and probable reserve life index. I believe that as you hear Allan, Steve, Lyle and Doug talk about the company's prospects, diverse asset base and strong balance sheet, you will agree the company is well positioned to continue a strong track record of profitable growth.

I'll now turn it over to Allan to give his thoughts on the quarter.

Allan P. Markin

Thanks, Corey. Good morning, everyone. We are delivering. We ended the year strong, achieving record quarterly cash flow from operations of $2.16 billion, driven by quarterly production of over 657,000 barrels per day, a record. In 2011, we economically grew our diverse asset base, increasing gross proved plus probable crude oil, bitumen, SCO and NGL reserves by 10% and increasing gross proven plus probable natural gas reserves by 6%, resulting in total company gross proved plus probable reserves of 7.5 billion BOE. Our total proved plus probable reserve replacement ratio was 390%. Our dedicated team delivered strong results from our North American crude oil E&P operations in 2011. Our light oil and primary heavy oil operations executed record drilling programs and achieved 10% and 11% average annual production growth, respectively. At Pelican Lake, response to the polymer flood continued to be positive, increasing gross proved crude oil reserves by 15%. And we focused on maximizing oil recoveries through effective well configuration and injection techniques. Thermal in situ operations achieved 9% production growth as a result of optimizing steaming techniques and low-cost pad developments at Primrose. We continue to advance the development of our high-quality SAGD projects through an active strat well program and through construction on Kirby South Phase 1. In 2011, we were selective in our approach to developing our natural gas assets and focused primarily on liquids-rich plays in Northeast British Columbia and Northwest Alberta. At Septimus, our unconventional Montney shale gas play, we continued to see results that exceeded expectations. And in the fourth quarter, we completed the tie-in to a deep cut facility to increase liquid recoveries. Internationally, we continue to optimize operations in the North Sea and sanctioned an infill drilling program at Espoir in offshore Africa targeted to begin in late 2012.

We are committed to creating value. We are confident in Canadian Natural's ability to generate significant shareholder value in 2012 through our oil-weighted growth. We will and are continuing to deliver strong operational discipline. Over to our President, Steve Laut.

Steve W. Laut

Thanks, Al, and good morning, everyone. As both Corey and Allan said, the fourth quarter was a strong quarter for Canadian Natural. Cash flow is up 30% over Q4 2010 with strong production performance, driven largely by a very strong oil growth across the company and the solid return of Horizon production in Q4.

In Q4, Canadian Natural continued to execute our strategy based on effective and efficient operations and optimizing capital allocation to ensure we maximize our return on capital, generate significant free cash flow, maintain our strong balance sheet through the price cycles and transition our asset base to a more sustainable, long-term asset base and provide the ability to increase dividends on a consistent basis.

Canadian Natural is one of the few companies in our peer group that has a strong, well-balanced and diverse asset base with significant upside in each component of our business. Our asset base, combined with our effective business practices and people, are Canadian Natural's competitive advantage. We have, on a consistent basis, been able to effectively allocate capital. As a result, we generate significant free cash flow and maximize return on capital to the long run and throughout the commodity price cycles.

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