April 26 (UPI) -- U.S. energy company Hess Corp. said Wednesday it posted a loss for the first quarter, but performance was better year-over-year as trends moved in its favor.
After navigating through a market downturn characterized last year by sub-$30 per barrel oil, Hess Corp. started 2017 by proclaiming the start of "an exciting new chapter of value-driven growth." Four years ago, it started its transformation into an exploration and production company after leaving the refining business. In 2014, it secured $2.6 billion with the sale of its entire retail sector of gasoline stations and convenience stores to Marathon Petroleum Corp.
The company said its average sale price for crude oil improved substantially compared with one year ago. For the first quarter, its average realized sale price was $48.58 per barrel, up from the $28.50 average for first quarter 2016.
CEO John Hess said in a statement that, with crude oil prices rebounding, the production momentum from its portfolio was moving in its favor.
"With more than a decade of visible production growth, our company is well positioned to deliver compelling long-term value for our shareholders," he said.
For its onshore assets in North America, Hess said its output from North Dakota exceeded its expectations with an average 99,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day from the Bakken shale reserve. Offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, output was somewhat lower for the first quarter at 66,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, against 69,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the first quarter of 2016. Offshore production figures could be stimulated next year, however, once the Stampede development comes online.
Hess has a role in the Liza field in Guyana, which was considered the industry's largest find in a decade. French energy services company TechnipFMC announced it secured a contract to aid in the project's development as it prepares to reveal the first quarterly earnings report since a merger in December.
Hess said it was still playing catch up, however, in exploration and production. Improved crude oil prices have translated to gains in exploration and production activity, though Hess said its spending in the first quarter was down 28 percent "reflecting our reduced work program in response to the low commodity price environment."