Exxon Mobil Corp. will increase its annual spending on energy projects by $1 billion, Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson said in the company's annual analyst meeting in New York.
The increase will bring capital spending levels to about $190 billion over the next five years, or $38 billion per year, a new record for the oil giant.
"I never would have dreamed I'd be spending at this level," Mr. Tillerson said.
Mr. Tillerson said the company's production of oil and other liquids is expected to increase by an average of 4% per year from 2013 through 2017 as Exxon starts production at 28 major oil and gas projects, 24 of which are heavy in liquids. New production startups in the next five years will total about one million oil-equivalent barrels, Mr. Tillerson said.
Mr. Tillerson's emphasis on oil production over natural gas reflects the low natural-gas prices that have hit North America in the past few years. The company has been criticized by investors for its 2010 purchase of XTO Energy Inc., which made it the largest natural gas producer in the U.S. just before prices plummeted due to overproduction.
As much as 51.4% of Exxon's production came from natural gas in the first quarter of 2012, but that percentage dropped to 48.7% in the fourth quarter.
The company announced earlier this week it would start a multi-billion dollar expansion of its Baytown, Texas, refinery aimed at taking advantage of the surge in U.S. natural gas. The company will add capacity to convert ethylene, which is a component of natural gas, into polyethylene, a building block for many other products.
Mr. Tillerson said company gas production will be down about 5% in 2013, but will then increase about 1% by 2017. Total product will be down about 1% in 2013 but up by 2% to 3% by 2017.
Wednesday's meeting is one of the few events during the year where Mr. Tillerson fields questions directly from analysts and reporters.
Exxon's fourth-quarter 2012 earnings rose 5.9% to $9.95 billion, or $2.20 a share, from the same period a year earlier, with refineries and the chemicals business providing the boost.
For the full year, Exxon posted a profit of $44.8 billion, second only to the record-breaking $45.2 billion in 2008, a year in which oil prices soared above $145 a barrel.
Melodie Warner contributed to this story.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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