Exxon's 2013 output to fall before growth returns

NEW YORK Wed Mar 6, 2013 11:17am EST

The Belgian headquarters of oil giant ExxonMobil, where Britain's Nicholas Mockford worked, is pictured in Machelen, northern Brussels, October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet

The Belgian headquarters of oil giant ExxonMobil, where Britain's Nicholas Mockford worked, is pictured in Machelen, northern Brussels, October 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sebastien Pirlet

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) said on Wednesday its oil and natural gas production would fall about 1 percent in 2013, but growth will return as more major projects are started over the next five years.

The world's largest oil companies have struggled to increase oil and gas output, forcing them to invest record amounts of capital to tap into difficult-to-reach fields.

This year, Exxon said it expects to spend $41 billion, a figure that includes its $3 billion purchase of Celtic Exploration.

Projects including the company's Kearl oil sands development and fields offshore Angola are expected to boost oil and gas volumes in coming years for the world's largest publicly traded oil company.

"Exxon has a long track record of success in finding and developing a broad spectrum of resource types," a fact that leaves the company well positioned to expand its volumes, Exxon Chief Executive Rex Tillerson told the company's annual analyst meeting in New York.

Through 2017, Exxon expects its annual oil and gas output to rise 2 percent to 3 percent, helped by major project startups.

Exxon's output of higher-priced liquids such as crude oil is expected to grow by 2 percent this year. Natural gas production is forecast to fall about 5 percent in 2013, primarily due to lower-than-anticipated output in North America, Tillerson said.

Last year, Exxon's oil and gas production fell 6 percent to average 4.2 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day.

Shares of Irving, Texas-based Exxon fell 18 cents to $89.43 in late-morning New York Stock Exchange trading.

(Reporting by Anna Driver; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Sofina Mirza-Reid and Dale Hudson)

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