Canadian Natural's President, Tim McKay, commented on the Company's third quarter 2022 results 'We remain focused on safe, reliable, effective and efficient operations and our 2022 capital program remains unchanged at approximately $4.9 billion, excluding acquisitions. Our culture of continuous improvement and focus on cost control combined with our disciplined and balanced approach to capital allocation continues to drive strong operational and financial results. We achieved record total quarterly production of approximately 1,339,000 BOE/d, including 487,553 bbl/d of Synthetic Crude Oil ('SCO'), reflecting strong operational performance on our long life zero decline Oil Sands Mining and Upgrading assets which comprises approximately 50% of our total company liquids production. Our high value SCO captured a strong price premium to WTI of US$8.87/bbl in the quarter, driving strong SCO pricing of $120.91/bbl and generating significant free cash flow for the Company.
Natural gas production also set a new quarterly record, at approximately 2,132 MMcf/d, which also achieved strong realized pricing, averaging $6.57/Mcf, which is above the AECO monthly benchmark price as a result of our diversified sales points. On October 4th, the Pathways Alliance ('Pathways') reached an important milestone, securing the right to continue exploratory work for CO2 injection at Pathways' proposed carbon capture and storage hub located near Cold Lake, Alberta, allowing us to advance to the next stage of evaluation. We are progressing with continued stakeholder engagement and more detailed engineering work on the approximately 400 kilometer long trunkline that will carry captured CO2 from oil sands facilities to the storage hub. We would like to thank the Alberta government for their continued support as we work together on this ambitious major emissions reduction project to achieve net zero greenhouse gas ('GHG') emissions in the oil sands, supporting Canada's environmental goals. Additionally, we appreciate the federal government's recent public statements in support of the Canadian oil and gas sector's role in global energy security along with commitment to be competitive on fiscal frameworks for carbon capture.
These are important steps to help the Canadian oil sands energy industry meet its commitment of net zero GHG emissions by 2050, which will result in the industry and governments investing approximately $24 billion between now and 2030 on Pathways' foundational carbon capture and storage project and other emissions reduction projects. Benefiting from the effective and efficient operations at Canadian Natural, payments to governments, investment in the oil and gas sector and returns to shareholders have been significant in 2022. Total forecasted payments by Canadian Natural to Canadian governments from income taxes, property taxes and royalties is estimated to be approximately $11 billion in 2022, an increase of approximately $6 billion, or 120% from 2021 levels. Additionally, our 2022 capital spend forecast of approximately $4.9 billion, excluding acquisitions, is an increase of approximately $1.4 billion, or 41% from 2021 levels, delivering responsibly produced energy to help meet global energy demand. As well, in 2022, we have returned approximately $4.9 billion to our shareholders through our quarterly dividends and special dividend, an increase of approximately $2.8 billion, or 127% from 2021 levels.'
Canadian Natural's Chief Financial Officer, Mark Stainthorpe, added 'The combination of our leading financial results and our top tier asset base provides unique competitive advantages which drive substantial cash flow generation and shareholder returns. Canadian Natural generated approximately $5.2 billion in adjusted funds flow in the third quarter, resulting in free cash flow of approximately $1.7 billion, after total dividends payments of approximately $2.5 billion and base capital expenditures of approximately $1.0 billion, excluding net acquisitions and strategic growth capital. Subsequent to quarter end, the Board of Directors has approved a 13% increase to our quarterly dividend to $0.85 per common share, from $0.75 per common share, demonstrating the confidence that the Board has in the sustainability of our business model, our strong balance sheet and the strength of our diverse, long life low decline asset base. The Company's leading track record of dividend increases continues, as this increase marks the 23rd consecutive year of dividend increases
We maintain a strong balance sheet and financial flexibility as we continue to reduce debt levels. Excluding the impact of foreign exchange, net debt would have decreased by approximately $680 million in the third quarter of 2022. Since September 30, 2021, cumulative repayments of long term debt, excluding foreign exchange impacts, total approximately $4.6 billion. Our free cash flow allocation policy is unique and balanced, providing significant returns to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases while continuing to strengthen the balance sheet. Given our strong financial position and with our net debt below $15 billion, shareholder returns are not impacted by strategic growth capital or acquisitions. We continue to target to allocate 50% of free cash flow, as defined in our policy, to share repurchases and 50% to the balance sheet, which the Company's Board of Directors will revisit when our net debt level is at or below $8 billion.'
Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
Certain statements relating to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (the 'Company') in this document or documents incorporated herein by reference constitute forward-looking statements or information (collectively referred to herein as 'forward-looking statements') within the meaning of applicable securities legislation. Forward-looking statements can be identified by the words 'believe', 'anticipate', 'expect', 'plan', 'estimate', 'target', 'continue', 'could', 'intend', 'may', 'potential', 'predict', 'should', 'will', 'objective', 'project', 'forecast', 'goal', 'guidance', 'outlook', 'effort', 'seeks', 'schedule', 'proposed', 'aspiration' or expressions of a similar nature suggesting future outcome or statements regarding an outlook. Disclosure related to expected future commodity pricing, forecast or anticipated production volumes, royalties, production expenses, capital expenditures, income tax expenses, and other targets provided throughout this press release and the Management's Discussion and Analysis ('MD&A') of the financial condition and results of operations of the Company, constitute forward-looking statements. Disclosure of plans relating to and expected results of existing and future developments, including, without limitation, those in relation to: the Company's assets at Horizon Oil Sands ('Horizon'), the Athabasca Oil Sands Project ('AOSP'), the Primrose thermal oil projects, the Pelican Lake water and polymer flood projects, the Kirby Thermal Oil Sands Project, the Jackfish Thermal Oil Sands Project and the North West Redwater bitumen upgrader and refinery; construction by third parties of new, or expansion of existing, pipeline capacity or other means of transportation of bitumen, crude oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids ('NGLs') or synthetic crude oil ('SCO') that the Company may be reliant upon to transport its products to market; the development and deployment of technology and technological innovations; the financial capacity of the Company to complete its growth projects and responsibly and sustainably grow in the long-term; and the timing and impact of the Pathways Alliance ('Pathways') initiative, government support for Pathways and the ability to achieve net zero emissions from oil production, also constitute forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on annual budgets and multi-year forecasts, and are reviewed and revised throughout the year as necessary in the context of targeted financial ratios, project returns, product pricing expectations and balance in project risk and time horizons. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to certain risks. The reader should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements as there can be no assurances that the plans, initiatives or expectations upon which they are based will occur. In addition, statements relating to 'reserves' are deemed to be forward-looking statements as they involve the implied assessment based on certain estimates and assumptions that the reserves described can be profitably produced in the future. There are numerous uncertainties inherent in estimating quantities of proved and proved plus probable crude oil, natural gas and NGLs reserves and in projecting future rates of production and the timing of development expenditures. The total amount or timing of actual future production may vary significantly from reserves and production estimates.
Canadian Natural Resources Limited (TSX-CNQ / NYSE-CNQ) will be issuing its 2022 Third Quarter Results on
Thursday, November 3, 2022 before market open.
A conference call will be held at 9:00 a.m. Mountain Time, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, November 3, 2022.
Dial-in to the live event:
North America 1-888-886-7786 / International 001-416-764-8658
Listen to the audio webcast:
Access the audio webcast on the home page of our website, www.cnrl.com.
Conference call playback: (available until Thursday, November 17, 2022)
North America 1-877-674-7070 / International 001-416-764-8692 (Passcode: 933506#)
CANADIAN NATURAL RESOURCES LIMITED
2100, 855 - 2nd Street S.W. Calgary