(Reuters) -Oil producer Canadian Natural Resources on Thursday set new environmental targets after it beat market estimates for second-quarter profit, buoyed by higher oil prices, which rebounded from pandemic-driven lows.
Cash-rich Canadian oil sands producers have come under pressure to meet the country’s goal on energy transition and top companies, including Canadian Natural, said in June they would form an alliance to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from their operations by 2050.
Canadian Natural said it is now targeting 50% reduction in methane emissions from its North America exploration and production business by 2030, from baseline of 2016.
It also added that it plans to cut fresh water used to generate steam and mining fresh river water by 40% by 2026, from baseline of 2017.
The company also said it would look to set aside 50% of free cash flow for share repurchases, once it reaches $15 billion in debt, expected in the fourth quarter.
Adjusted earnings of C$1.24 per share in the quarter ended June 30, beat analysts’ estimate of 92 Canadian cents per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
Oil and gas producers have bounced back this year as COVID-19 vaccinations allowed some countries to ease pandemic-related curbs, supporting higher crude prices.
Average realized prices for crude rose 16.2% to C$61.2 per barrel in the second quarter, from the first.
The company, which operates in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, northeastern British Columbia and Saskatchewan, produced 1.14 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) in the reported quarter, compared to 1.25 million boepd in first quarter.
Canadian Natural said if pipeline operator Inter Pipeline’s takeover by Brookfield succeeds, the company would use the proceeds and boost its 2021 capital budget by $275 million to $3.48 billion. Canadian Natural owns about 6.4 million shares of Inter.
($1 = 1.2520 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Sahil Shaw in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)