Performance highlights



In this article

Performance highlights

Brad Corson's remarks

2021 was a year that again demonstrated the resiliency of our company and our people in the face of adversity. Similar to other challenging periods throughout Imperial’s 142-year history, the company continued to adapt and respond to the dynamic business environment. This success supports our confidence in our future.

While challenges of the pandemic continued throughout 2021, Imperial delivered a year of outstanding performance across the company as commodity prices significantly improved. This performance reflected the strength of Imperial’s integrated business model and value created through structural cost reductions, focus on reliable operations and capital-efficient growth in our core businesses.

With the strategic decisions we have made and implemented over the past two years to improve cost, reliability and competitiveness, the company is well-positioned to take full advantage of the current market. Imperial’s financial results benefited across all segments from stronger commodity prices and margins as the company maximized performance of existing assets, prioritized shareholder returns and progressed key sustainability initiatives.

We know the road ahead still includes challenges. We have built a solid path, demonstrated by our track record to date, and are well positioned to continue this positive momentum.

Brad Corson
Chairman, president and chief executive officer


2021 highlights


Full-year earnings and cash flow
  • Net income in 2021 was $2,479 million, or $3.48 per share on a diluted basis, compared to a net loss of $1,857 million or $2.53 per share in 2020. Prior year results include a non-cash impairment charge of $1,171 million after tax, related to the company's decision to no longer develop a significant portion of its unconventional portfolio. 
  • Cash flow generated from operating activities was $5,476 million, compared to cash flow generated from operating activities of $798 million in 2020.
Shareholder return
Returned $2,951 million to shareholders through dividends and share purchases.
Capital and exploration expenditures
Capital and exploration expenditures totalled $1,140 million, up from $874 million in 2020.
Upstream performance

Upstream recorded net income of $1,395 for the year, compared to a net loss of $2,318 million in 2020. Results were impacted by higher realizations of about $3,640 million, the absence of a 2020 non-cash impairment charge of $1,171 million, related to the company's decision to no longer develop a significant portion of its unconventional portfolio, and higher volumes of about $550 million.  These items were partially offset by higher royalties of about $680 million, higher operating expenses of about $720 million, and unfavourable foreign exchange impacts of about $230 million.

  • Total gross production of Kearl bitumen averaged 263,000 barrels per day in 2021 (186,000 barrels Imperial's share), the highest annual production in the asset's history, up from 222,000 barrels per day (158,000 barrels Imperial's share) in 2020. Improved production was primarily driven by the absence of prior year production balancing with market demands.
  • Gross production of Cold Lake bitumen averaged 140,000 barrels per day in 2021, up from 132,000 barrels per day in 2020.
  • During 2021, the company's share of gross production from Syncrude averaged 71,000 barrels per day, up from 69,000 barrels per day in 2020.
Downstream perfomance

Downstream net income was $895 million, up from $553 million in 2020. Results were favourably impacted by higher margins of about $600 million and lower operating expenses of about $50 million. These items were partially offset primarily by unfavourable foreign exchange impacts of about $150 million and an unfavourable inventory adjustment of $74 million.

  • Refinery throughput averaged 379,000 barrels per day in 2021, up from 340,000 barrels per day in 2020. Capacity utilization was 89 percent, up from 80 percent in 2020. Higher throughput in 2021 primarily reflects reduced impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, partially offset by a planned turnaround at Strathcona.
  • Petroleum product sales were 456,000 barrels per day in 2021, up from 421,000 barrels per day in 2020. Higher petroleum product sales were primarily driven by reduced impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Chemical net income was $361 million in 2021, up from $78 million in 2020, primarily reflecting stronger industry polyethylene margins.

Financial & operating

2021 financial & operating information is available in Imperial's 2021 financial and operating results.

Forward-looking statements: Statements of future events or conditions in this report, including projections, targets, expectations, estimates, and business plans are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as believe, anticipate, intend, propose, plan, goal, seek, project, predict, target, estimate, expect, strategy, outlook, schedule, future, continue, likely, may, should, will and similar references to future periods. Forward-looking statements in this report include, but are not limited to, references to being well-positioned to take advantage of the current market. 

Forward-looking statements are based on the company's current expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions at the time the statements are made. Actual future financial and operating results, including expectations and assumptions concerning future energy demand, growth and energy source, supply and mix; commodity prices, foreign exchange rates and general market conditions; production rates, growth and mix across various assets; project plans, timing, costs, technical evaluations and capacities, and the company’s ability to effectively execute on these plans and operate its assets; the amount and timing of emissions reductions; the adoption and impact of new facilities or technologies on capital efficiency, production and reductions to greenhouse gas emissions intensity; that any required support from policymakers and other stakeholders for various new technologies such as carbon capture and storage will be provided; applicable laws and government policies, including taxation, restrictions in response to COVID-19 and with respect to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions reductions; receipt of regulatory approvals; performance of third-party service providers; cash generation, financing sources and capital structure; capital and environmental expenditures; and evolution of COVID-19 and the company’s ability to effectively execute on its business continuity plans and pandemic response activities could differ materially depending on a number of factors.

These factors include global, regional or local changes in supply and demand for oil, natural gas, and petroleum and petrochemical products, feedstocks and other market or economic conditions and resulting demand, price, differential and margin impacts; transportation for accessing markets; political or regulatory events, including changes in law or government policy, applicable royalty rates, tax laws, and actions in response to COVID-19; environmental risks inherent in oil and gas activities; environmental regulation, including climate change and greenhouse gas regulation and changes to such regulation; failure or delay of supportive policy and market development for emerging lower emission energy technologies; the receipt, in a timely manner, of regulatory and third-party approvals; third-party opposition to company and service provider operations, projects and infrastructure; availability and allocation of capital; availability and performance of third-party service providers, including in light of restrictions related to COVID-19; unanticipated technical or operational difficulties; management effectiveness and disaster response preparedness, including business continuity plans in response to COVID-19; commercial negotiations; project management and schedules and timely completion of projects; unexpected technological developments; the results of research programs and new technologies, including with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, and the ability to bring new technologies to commercial scale on a cost-competitive basis; reservoir analysis and performance; the ability to develop or acquire additional reserves; operational hazards and risks; cybersecurity incidents; currency exchange rates; the pace of regional and global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the occurrence and severity of future outbreaks and variants; general economic conditions, including the occurrence and duration of economic recessions; and other factors discussed in Item 1A “Risk factors” and Item 7 “Management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations” in the company’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K.

Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve a number of risks and uncertainties, some that are similar to other oil and gas companies and some that are unique to Imperial. Imperial’s actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by its forward-looking statements and readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on them. Imperial undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained herein, except as required by applicable law.