Noble Energy posts lower 4Q, 2013 earnings

Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) earned $134 million during the fourth quarter of 2013, down from $251 million the same period a year earlier.

Noble Energy, which drills oil and natural-gas wells in Weld County, earned $978 million in 2013 vs. $1 billion the prior year.

The lower earnings came amid higher operating costs and despite record production in the fourth quarter. Expenses came from the development of the company’s onshore oil and gas development as well as an unsuccessful well drilled offshore Nicaragua and an acquisition in the Falkland Islands.

The company reported $1.1 billion in capital spending during the fourth quarter, up from $1 billion the previous fourth quarter. Capital spending during 2013 totaled $4.3 billion vs. $3.6 billion in 2012.

Sales volumes during the fourth quarter averaged 293,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, a 16-percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2012. The company’s U.S. sales volumes averaged 166,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day during the fourth quarter, a 14-percent increase driven mostly by increased development in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, an area spanning Northern Colorado, and the Marcellus shale in the East.

A 19-percent increase that led to international production averaging 127,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day came primarily from gas production in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In the D.J. Basin, volumes averaged a record 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day during the fourth quarter, a 16-percent improvement from the fourth quarter a year earlier.

Growth from strong well performance, new wells and expanded natural gas and crude oil infrastructure more than offset the impacts from the September storm flooding and a deal to exchange acreage with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC). Noble Energy completed a record 87 wells in the region during the fourth quarter.

The startup of multiple major facilities also occurred during the quarter, including a processing facility, rail facility and other infrastructure that led to increased oil export capacity.

The company’s estimated proven reserves totaled 1.4 billion barrels of oil equivalent, up 19 percent from 2012. Reserves in the U.S. account for 55 percent of the total, with international reserves contributing the remaining 45 percent.

The company plans to invest $2 billion in the D.J. Basin this year. Noble Energy shares were up less than one point to $61.32 in afternoon trading.

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