Imperial Oil CEO optimistic Alberta gov't will add to carbon capture funding

Jan 31 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Canada's Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) on Tuesday expressed optimism that the Alberta government will contribute funding for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the province, adding to tax credits unveiled by the federal government.

CEO Brad Corson's comments came as Imperial reported a higher fourth-quarter profit than a year earlier, helped by elevated energy prices and tight global supplies.

Calgary-based Imperial is part of the Pathways Alliance, a group of six oil sands producers planning to develop a CCS project in northern Alberta that is expected to cost C$16.5 billion ($12.38 billion) by 2030.

The federal government last year announced a 50% investment tax credit to help fund CCS development in Canada, but Pathways says additional public money is needed and Ottawa and the Alberta government each say the other should contribute more.

"We've always said we need more than that 50%. We're also optimistic that the province will contribute to that as well," Corson said on a call to discuss the company's results. "It's really a tri-party discussion that's going on between Pathways and the federal government and the provincial government."

Corson said he was unsure whether clarity on CCS support would come in Canada's upcoming federal budget speech this spring, or soon after.

"I'm optimistic that if it's not in the budget speech, it'll be soon thereafter that we'll get not just clarity, but resolution so we can move forward on these projects," he added.

Imperial reported fourth-quarter net income of C$1.7 billion ($1.26 billion), or C$2.86 per share, up from C$813 million or C$1.18 per share, a year earlier.

Benchmark oil prices cooled from the 14-year highs they reached in the first half of 2022, but were still 9% higher year-over-year during the quarter, as Western sanctions contained Russian supply and OPEC+ made steep cuts to production.

Imperial Oil's majority shareholder, Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), posted an annual profit of $59 billion earlier on Tuesday, a record for the Western oil industry.

Imperial said its upstream production for the fourth quarter averaged 441,000 gross oil-equivalent barrels per day (boepd), down from 445,000 boepd in the same quarter a year earlier.

The producer and refiner's crude capacity utilization was 101%, its highest ever, resulting in total throughput of 433,000 barrels per day (bpd) for the quarter.

Imperial shares were up 2.4% at C$72.36 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

($1 = 1.3323 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Arshreet Singh; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Bill Berkrot

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