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Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s Primrose Lake oil sands project is seen near Cold Lake, Alta.REUTERS

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has added $425-million to its 2014 budget to cover the costs tied to its recent acquisitions and what it views as development opportunities.

The company, which increased its dividend while releasing first-quarter results Thursday, said its capital expenses could reach between $11.7-billion and $12.13-billion in 2014. The company in March expected its capital spending to ring in at about $7.7-billion and $8.1-billion. The revised total, however, also accounts for spending on acquisitions.

CNRL, with a healthy balance sheet, struck a deal in February to buy Devon Energy Corp.'s natural gas assets in Canada for $3.1-billion.

"The integration of people is now complete and the integration of those assets is progressing," Steve Laut, CNRL's president, said about the company's acquisitions in the first quarter.

The company now expects to produce between 537,000 and 574,000 barrels a day, up from its March estimate of 521,000 to 560,000. Its expectations for natural gas production also jumped, hitting between 1.53 billion and 1.57 billion cubic feet a day, up from between 1.17 billion and 1.21 billion.

CNRL made $622-million or 57 cents a share in the quarter, up from $213-million or 19 cents in the same quarter in 2013. The jump is tied to stronger oil and natural gas prices, the company said. The differential between Western Canadian Select heavy oil and West Texas intermediate shrunk to 24 per cent in the quarter, down from 34 per cent in the first quarter last year. The price for CNRL's synthetic crude oil climbed to $96.45 (U.S) a barrel, up from $88.37 in the fourth quarter of 2014.

AECO natural gas prices, the benchmark in Alberta, also climbed 55 per cent from the first quarter of 2013, CNRL said. The price for natural gas on the New York Mercantile Exchange was 46 per cent stronger than the same frame last year.

CNRL increased its quarterly dividend to 22.5 cents a share from 20 cents. The company says this is the 14th year of consecutive quarterly dividend increases.

The Calgary-based company, which has assets around the world, said it is still investigating bitumen leaks on its Primrose oil sands development, which started in the second quarter of 2013.

"The cleanup of all four sites is complete and the causation review of the bitumen emulsion seepage is nearing completion," CNRL said in its statement. There were three leaks at Primrose East, and the fourth occurred on Primrose South.

"Canadian Natural has developed methods to prevent seepage for all potential failure mechanisms," the statement said. "This includes the remediation of legacy well bores, modified steaming strategies, enhanced monitoring techniques and pro-active response strategies."

(Editor's note: CNRL made $622-million or 57 cents a share in the first quarter. An earlier online version said the company made $57 a share.)

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