Oilsands majors accrue $7.8 billion in free cash flow in H1 2021


Canada’s oilsands majors continue to generate huge amounts of free cash flow in 2021.

Higher commodity prices in the first half of 2021, coupled with a slow return to pre-pandemic levels of capital spending, has resulted in operating cash flow significantly outweighing capital budgets for many producers across the U.S. and Canadian upstream sectors this year.

This is especially true in the Canadian oilsands, with Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus Energy, Imperial Oil, MEG Energy and Suncor Energy recording a combined free cash flow of $7.8 billion in the first half of the year.

This analysis is part of a new Evaluate Energy report on key cash flow and capital management trends across the North American upstream sector. Access the report here.

While it is not unusual for oilsands producers to generate billions in free cash flow, these 2021 values remain highly significant. Only three financial quarters between the start of 2018 and the beginning of the pandemic in Q1 2020 saw values higher than the free cash flow recorded in either Q1 or Q2 2021.

Despite this recent high in free cash flow, the data also shows that capital spending has now recovered to pre-pandemic levels for the five producers.

These oilsands companies never deviated far from spending $2.5-$3.5 billion each quarter before the pandemic started in Q1 2020, and Q2 2021 was the first quarter of that magnitude since. This can actually be seen across the Canadian industry, with the other 37 Canadian producers in our report recording combined Q2 capex greater than averages seen prior to the pandemic.

Evaluate Energy’s Q2 2021 cash flow review for North American oil and gas producers is available now. The report includes analysis of dividend increases, capital budget levels and debt-related spending for 86 U.S. and Canadian oil and gas producers.



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