Canada's largest energy company, Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU), is out with its fourth-quarter results. The company produced operating earnings of C$973 million, or C$0.66 per share. That was less than the C$0.78 per share analysts were expecting. Earnings were also less than the C$988 million that Suncor Energy produced in the fourth quarter of 2012. A challenging western Canadian crude oil price environment was to blame for the lower earnings.

For the quarter the company's production averaged of 558,100 barrels per day, which was slightly higher than the 556,500 barrels per day that the company produced in last year's fourth quarter. Lower output in Libya as well as the sale of the company's conventional natural gas business was more than offset by an 18% increase in Suncor Energy's oil sands segment.

Despite weak prices and the shut-in of production in Libya, Suncor Energy delivered C$2.2 billion in cash flow from operations again this quarter. It was the tenth consecutive quarter the company delivered cash flow at or above that number. Because of its solid cash flow the company was able to raise its dividend by 15% while also adding a billion dollars to its share buyback program.

While lower western Canadian crude oil problems affected Suncor Energy's earnings in the quarter, it doesn't expect that trend to continue in 2014. The company expects to realize better prices for its oil by shipping 30,000 barrels per day to its Montreal refinery next quarter. That's in addition to shipping 50,000 barrels per day to the U.S. Gulf Coast on the recently completed southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. 


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