Encana profit increases 10 percent

Encana posted net operating income of $240 million for the first quarter, or 33 cents per share, a 10-percent year-over-year increase, the company announced Wednesday.

Encana, which drills for natural gas around Erie, also reported cash flow of $1 billion, or $1.39 per share, an increase of 6 percent from the first quarter last year. The company aims to have about $3 billion in cash on its balance sheet by the end of the year.

Encana also said it was aggressively expanding its exploration and development of oil and natural-gas liquids throughout North America. It increased first-quarter production 26 percent from the same period last year to about 29,000 barrels per day.

The company’s natural-gas production increased to about 3.27 billion cubic feet per day, 2 percent higher than the first quarter last year and 5 percent lower than the fourth quarter, the company said.

But Encana also said that it was reducing natural-gas production capacity compared with 2011 amid an oversupply of natural gas. It remained hopeful that natural-gas prices would rebound.

“We continue to see cause for optimism for higher natural gas prices in the approval of natural gas exports and export facilities, coal plant retirements, increased industrial demand for ethane and other (natural-gas liquids), and gas-to-liquids projects,” CEO Randy Eresman said in an earnings statement.

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