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Facts & Rumors # 312

November 10, 2018

Expo/Industry events for the next few months

Downstream Petrochemical Value Chain
November 15, 2018
Eagle Sticks Golf Club
2655 Maysville Pike
Zanesville, OH

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Latest facts and a rumor from the Marcellus, Utica, Permian, Eagle Ford, Bakken and Niobrara Shale Plays

Shell E&P Pulling out of PA.  Shell is looking to sell its acreage in Tioga County, PA.  Shell has been assigning well site workers to other Shell operations in other parts of the world.  (RUMOR)

ExxonMobil’s CEO Comments on the Permian.  The world’s biggest public energy company doesn’t worry about size when it comes to potential deal-making.

The driver of any acquisition for Irving-based Exxon Mobil Corp. isn’t the scope of the target; it’s whether the company finds more value in it than the market does, said chief executive officer Darren Woods at the New Economy Forum in Singapore. The explorer is looking for opportunities to purchase assets even as it plans to expand output at existing fields from West Texas to Mozambique.

“We have the capacity to do any size opportunity that can come about, so it’s really a function of looking at the value that Exxon Mobil can extract, and how we would integrate that into our portfolio,” Woods said in a Bloomberg TV interview, while declining to comment on any specific targets.

Exxon spent $6 billion buying drilling rights from the Bass family in the Permian Basin last year and has been cited by analysts a potential purchaser of Endeavor Energy Resources LP, the basin’s largest privately-held oil producer — an acquisition that could total more than $10 billion. The oil major certainly has the capability to do big deals, with more than $3 billion of cash on its balance sheet and low debt, according to Bloomberg data.

Woods sees a bright future for the oil industry, with 2.5 billion people set to enter the middle class in the next 20 years. That means more liquefied natural gas for electricity, more petrochemicals for plastics, and more oil to fuel the heavy-duty transportation required to move consumer goods.

The company is seeking to grow production with a focus on Guyana, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Mozambique and the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico. Exxon has already surpassed its plan to mobilize about 30 rigs in the U.S. shale region by year’s end: the company had 38 machines drilling Permian wells as of last week, a 40 percent increase in just six months.

Still, Woods said the company remains committed to not rushing development in the region. West Texas Intermediate crude prices had risen 26 percent this year through early October before giving back nearly all of the gains in the past month.

“The price in the oil markets are going to go up and come down again, and our view is the business we build in the Permian, we’re building for the long term,” he said. “It needs to be efficient, low-cost and effective, so we’re making sure the pace we go at allows that to happen.”

Chevron’s Shale Focus.  With each passing quarter, Chevron continues to benefit from, and become more dependent upon, its booming shale-drilling business in the Permian Basin. The company is getting much better results than expected from its drilling program there and is generating lots of excess cash flow to reward investors with share repurchases and dividends.

What’s even more fascinating about Chevron’s strategic plan is that it’s also selling assets and keeping capital spending at incredibly low levels. Is the company banking its entire future on shale, or are there other plans in the works? Let’s take a look at Chevron’s most recent earnings results and see what management was up to this past quarter.

9 Lives of the Constitution Pipeline.  (Thank you, MDN) Miracle of miracles, two Democrat FERC commissioners (Cheryl LaFleur and Dick Glick), along with one Republican commissioner (Chairman Neil Chatterjee), voted unanimously to extend the time frame by another two years for Williams to build the Constitution Pipeline.

As you may recall, the Constitution was stopped cold by NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Constitution is planned to run from Susquehanna County, PA up into, and mostly situated in, New York State.

Encino to Stay in Canton, OH Area.  Encino Acquisition Partners plans to drill Utica Shale wells for decades to come, with Stark County home to the company’s Ohio operations.

The Houston, Texas-based partnership closed Monday on a $2 billion deal to buy Chesapeake Energy’s Utica assets in Ohio.

Encino Acquisition Partners acquired 920 operated and non-operated wells and the drilling rights to more than 900,000 acres, along with Chesapeake’s field office in Louisville and the 109 employees who work there.

Who is Encino?

Encino Energy and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board formed Encino Acquisition Partners in 2017. The pension board owns 98 percent of the partnership and Encino Energy, a privately held company in Houston, operates the assets.

The Chesapeake deal gives Encino Acquisition Partners more Utica wells than any other company in the state.

“The Utica is our most important asset,” said Encino Energy President and Chief Executive Hardy Murchison. “It’s by far our largest and it’s our focus for the foreseeable future. We see decades of drilling ahead of us there and we see it as being profitable across a wide range of oil and gas price outlooks. This is our focus.”

The new partnership looked at oil and natural gas basins around the country. Chesapeake held a lot of high-quality acreage in the Utica Shale, and had built a great team of workers in Ohio, all of whom joined Encino, Murchison said.

Chesapeake also was looking to sell assets to pay off debts.

Chesapeake’s acreage spanned the Utica Shale region, which has areas that produce everything from oil to natural gas to hydrocarbons like ethane that are used in making plastics and other chemicals.

Being able to drill for different products gives Encino Acquisition Partners flexibility to deal with swings in the prices of natural gas and oil.

The Utica region also has infrastructure — including new pipelines and processing plants — and end users of oil and natural gas, such as the Shell Appalachia “cracker plant” under construction near Pittsburgh.

And the Winner Is??  NatGas!! (Thank you, MDN). We spotted an intriguing editorial in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. It quotes a study by “an independent, market-based think tank” with some phenomenal findings. If you invest $1 million in solar, over a 30-year period you’ll get around 25 million kilowatt hours of electricity. If you invest that same $1 million in wind, you’ll get 50 million kilowatt hours over a 30-year period. But if you invest the same $1 million in natural gas-fired electric generation (cost to extract the gas, etc.), you’ll get 400 million kilowatt hours of electricity over 30 years! NatGas yields 8 times as much electricity per dollar as wind, and 16 times as much as solar.

Finally, NatGas Power Plant Coming to WV.  A natural gas power plant in Brooke County is one step closer to becoming a reality. Plans have been in motion since 2010. Friday, the site was issued a permit by the state. “The opportunity is here, the shale gas reserves are here, we’re just ready to get to work to build this plant and we’ve been waiting a few years for this announcement,” said Business Development Corporation Executive Director Pat Ford.

An announcement was publicly made Friday afternoon by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. “What we want the public to know is that this is going to be over $880 million in investment to construct this plant and approximately 1,100 jobs, both direct and indirect, associated with this plant,” Ford said.

Rover Gets 2 FERC Approvals.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted Rover Pipeline permission to begin additional service moving natural gas across northern Ohio, Kallanish Energy reports.

The federal agency last week told the company it could begin service on the Sherwood Lateral, Sherwood Compressor Station, Sherwood Delivery Meter Station, CGT Lateral and CGT Delivery Meter Station in the Appalachian Basin.

They were the last parts of the Rover pipeline project that needed FERC approval.

Approval was granted, FERC said, “on the basis of ongoing inspections, reports by the commission’s third-party compliance monitors, my staff’s determination that rehabilitation and restoration of the affected areas are generally proceeding satisfactorily and Rover’s commitment to promptly finalize restoration of the approved facilities,” said FERC spokesman Rich McGuire, in a two-page letter.

Rover Pipeline, a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, has pledged restoration and rehabilitation on the remaining slips or land movements on the CGT Lateral will be completed by Dec. 18 and on the Sherwood Lateral by Jan. 2, McGuire said.

He said the company had identified 44 slips or ground movement areas that needed work.

Last week, the company and another federal agency indicated that Rover Pipeline was likely guilty of what were called three “probable violations.”

The problems between the pipeline company and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have largely been resolved.

The violations are for improper testing of pipeline welds, failing to comply with specifications or standards on repairing dents to the steel pipe and failure to build the pipeline to avoid stresses on the pipeline.

Those two laterals are mechanically complete and the final grading and seeding have been completed, Rover Pipeline wrote.

The company said it has also filed plans for additional ground-movement areas outside the construction right of way along the Sherwood and CGT laterals.

The Sherwood Lateral runs about 54 miles from eastern Ohio into West Virginia. The CGT line runs about six miles from the Sherwood line to an interconnection with a Columbia Gas Transmission line.

The $4.2 billion twin pipelines had encountered trouble with leaks and spills from horizontal directional drilling in Ohio where drilling had been halted for a time because of concern by state agencies.

Construction was also halted for a time in West Virginia because of erosion and sediment control problems along pipeline laterals.

The 713-mile pipeline will move up to 3.25 billion cubic feet per day of Utica and Marcellus natural gas to the Gulf Coast, the Midwest and Ontario.

Initial service on the pipeline began Aug. 31, 2017.

Clouds on the Drilling Horizon.  (Thank you, BTU Analytics) Earnings season is here, and with it comes company specific insights as well as occasional perspective on the macro environment.  Halliburton and Schlumberger commentary is often a bell weather of industry activity, so today BTU Analytics dives in to see what signals two of the largest oil service companies are sending to the market.

While overall the rebound in the North American market has benefited service companies over the last two years, there is significant concern around both the short-term and long-term viability of the prominent US plays in the most recent earning announcements.

Additionally, the strong run of improving operating margins over the last couple of years has begun to slow.  The chart below shows operating margins for HAL and SLB through 3Q 2018. Operating margins have been trending mostly flat since 4Q 2017. Slowing North American activity during the third quarter caused some service pricing weakness for HAL and SLB, and some of the challenges being faced over the next 12 months could mean that operating margins may not see improvement back to the 16% – 22% range seen in 2014.

Operating Margins For HAL and SLB In the short term, both companies are feeling the effects of infrastructure impacting their clients. SLB stated that the takeaway constraints out of the Permian Basin have led to lower activity in their hydraulic fracturing business which placed pressure on their 3Q performance. Halliburton also saw some customers defer completions due to takeaway issues, however, companies with firm capacity have continued to complete wells and maintain activity in the Permian.

Slower activity is expected to persist through 4Q, with operators pulling back through the end of the year due to both takeaway issues and budget exhaustion.  Both companies see the current slowdown to be temporary and predict that WTI prices remaining in the $70/Bbl range will allow for larger budgets and encourage strong operator activity in 2019.

The pullback in activity across the US is consistent with BTU’s current well forecast, shown below. Increases in total US Wells to Sale activity has begun to slow, with BTU calling for 3Q 2018 to be the peak of completion activity until later in 2019 when many of the pipeline takeaway issues are resolved. Drilling activity is forecasted to remain higher than completions throughout this time frame, and for basins such as the Permian it could result in a significant build-up of DUCs (drilled uncompleted wells) over the next few months. While service companies are hoping that activity will pick up in early 2019, BTU sees challenges which could push higher completions out until later in the year.

Wells To Sale

What are those challenges and what risks does BTU Analytics see to future activity levels?  For more insight into BTU’s views, request a sample of the US Upstream Outlook report.

Encana – Newfield Merger.   Encana has become the second largest unconventional oil producer in North America with its all-stock merger with Newfield Exploration. The Calgary-based exploration and production company will now hold core-of-the-core assets in three major North American shale basins, including the Permian, SCOOP/STACK and the Montney. The value of the merger is roughly $5.5 billion, according to Encana.

“When combined with our cube development model, expected synergies and relentless focus on efficiency, we are positioned to deliver highly efficient growth and quality returns,” said Doug Suttles, president and CEO of Encana who will assume the same role of the combined companies.

Encana’s cube development program combines above-surface strategies with below ground operations. The strategy involves multiple drilling rigs working on massive multiwell pads. The system utilizes crew and infrastructure to create more efficient above ground operations. Below ground, Encana is able to use more horsepower and complete more wells while on the pad. According to the company, there is a major benefit to drilling and completing an entire cube pattern of wells positioned in multiple zones at once. “Historically, our industry was slow to identify the optimal well spacing for unconventional plays,” said Mike McAllister, Encana’s COO. “This has led to large infill drilling programs years later to try and boost recovery factors.”

Following the completion of the deal—expected in early 2019—Encana intends to raise its dividends to shareholders by 25 percent and complete a $1.5 billion share buyback program. The combination of the two E&P’s creates a new version of Encana that will produced more than 577,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day

Lee Boothby, president and CEO of Newfield, said Encana will now be able to develop Newfield’s assets at a faster rate. Suttles told investors that the new assets will allow Encana to transfer learnings from one basin to another and that with more assets, the company can now remain fluid with its capital, deploying in the basin’s that offer the best returns.

Encana will now own roughly 63 percent of the new company, with Newfield owning the remainder.

Mountain Valley Pipeline Seeks FERC Approval.  Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for authorization to build the MVP Southgate project, an interstate natural gas pipeline designed to move natural gas to central North Carolina.

The pipeline company will construct and own the proposed MVP Southgate, which is a joint venture between EQM Midstream Partners, affiliates of NextEra Energy, Consolidated Edison; RGC Resources; WGL Midstream; and PSNC Energy, Kallanish Energy reports.

EQM Midstream Partners will operate the pipeline and own the largest interest in the joint venture. Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC and PSNC have entered into binding long-term agreements that make PSNC Energy an anchor shipper for the project.

MVP Southgate will tie into the Mountain Valley Pipeline near Chatham, Virginia, and transport Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas to delivery points in North Carolina’s Rockingham and Alamance counties for distribution to PSNC Energy’s residential and commercial customers.

As currently proposed, the MVP Southgate project is roughly 73 miles long. Construction is anticipated to begin in the first quarter of 2020, with a full in-service date targeted for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Pioneer 3rd Qtr. Update.  Pioneer Natural Resources reported third-quarter net income of $411 million, compared to a net loss of 23 million in Q3 2017, the Irving, Texas-based company reported.

It reported quarterly revenue of $2.48 billion, Kallanish Energy reports.

Pioneer said it is producing 288,000 barrels of oil-equivalent per day (Boe/d) in the Permian Basin of West Texas/southeast New Mexico. That’s an increase of 14,000 Boe/d, or 5%, from Q2 2018, it said.

Pioneer said Permian oil production grew to 186,000 barrels of oil per day (Bpd), an increase of 11,000 Bpd, or 7%, from Q2.

Overall, company production in Q3 was 321,000 Boe/d.

Oil sales averaged 195,000 Bpd, while natural gas liquids averaged 63,000 Bpd and natural gas sales averaged 378 million cubic feet per day (Mmcf/d).

It is projecting Permian production growth of 19% to 24% in 2018, compared to 2017.

“The third quarter was another very strong quarter for Pioneer and resulted in production being above guidance, healthy earnings and solid execution,” said president and CEO Timothy Dove, in a statement.

He added, “The Permian Basin continues to be the best place to be in the shale oil business, providing unmatched resource potential and opportunity and delivers highly productive wells, strong cash margins and robust returns.”

In the quarter Pioneer placed 69 horizontal wells into service in the Permian Basin. It is operating 22 rigs in the basin and plans to add two additional rigs in December.

Pioneer expects to place 250 to 275 Permian wells into service in 2018.

Pioneer said it placed its first multi-zone Spraberry appraisal pad with six wells in western Martin County. The initial results are about 35% better than previous Spraberry wells, the company said. Two additional multi-zone Spraberry pads will begin service in Q4.

The company spent $835 million in Q3 on drilling and well completions.

In the quarter, Pioneer delivered 165,000 Bpd of oil to the Gulf Coast, of which roughly 130,000 Bpd are being exported, it said.

The company has leased about 750,000 acres in the Permian Basin. It’s divesting Eagle Ford Shale and other assets to become a Permian pure-play company. That should be completed by Dec. 31, Dove said.

Bakken Deal.  A SPAC has entered the Williston Basin. Vantage Acquisition Operating Company LLC, a special purpose acquisition company formed by former exploration and production executives, has acquired the Williston Basin assets of QEP Resources. The deal, expected to close in early 2019, is valued at $1.725 billion and includes QEP’s South Antelope and Fort Berthold leasehold positions.

After raising $552 million in 2017 for the purpose of acquiring a leasehold position in a major shale play, the Vantage team will now be focused on further developing the assets developing by QEP, including wells targeting multiple pay zones of the Middle Bakken and one bench of the multi-layer Three Forks formation.

Plains All American Expands Capacity in the Permian. Pipeline operator Plains All American said it had expanded the capacity of its network in Texas, launching its Sunrise pipeline from the Permian to Cushing, Oklahoma, which boosted overall daily volumes to between 300,000 and 350,000 barrels, Reuters reports, citing the company’s third-quarter earnings call.

Earlier estimates for the capacity of the expanded network had suggested daily volumes of 200,000-250,000 bpd of crude. The news should be very welcome for Permian producers who have been grappling with pipeline capacity shortages amid fast-growing production. The Sunrise pipeline’s total capacity is as much as half a million barrels daily. Its launch has already affected prices positively, lifting them from four-year lows.

As of July, the pipeline capacity in the Permian was 3.1 million bpd, according to S&P Global Platts calculations, with production at 3.5 million bpd. However, there is a total 2.6 million bpd in new capacity coming online soon: the additional barrels should begin to flow in full by the third quarter of 2019, S&P Global Platts reported.

There is even more capacity coming online in later years, but this has sparked concern—vague for now—that if prices take a dive again, which is always a possibility, Permian field and pipeline operators could end up with stranded capacity as production growth slows down. However, this possibility is still only hypothetical, so the news about additional pipelines should immediately help producer get a better price for their crude; they’ve had to sell at a substantial discount to WTI because of the pipeline bottlenecks in recent months.

Others are upbeat about the Permian’s production growth prospects. “In the past 24 months, production from just this one region—the Permian—has grown far more than any other entire country in the world,” Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit said in August, commenting on the future of the star shale play in the United States. “Add an additional 3 mbd by 2023—more than the total present-day production of Kuwait—and you have a level of production that exceeds the current production of every OPEC nation except for Saudi Arabia.”

Permian “frac holiday” Will Be Ending.   Take Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc.’s operations, for instance. Just three months after moving drill rigs out of the Permian basin because of pipeline shortages, the Houston-based explorer is already talking about bringing them back in the middle of next year.

That’s one of several signs the end may be near for a self-imposed slowdown executives call a “frac holiday.”

The result: Carrizo will reach an “inflection point” in 2019 where both production and cash flow begin to rise together, CEO Chip Johnson said on a conference call Tuesday. In other words, things will soon be booming again.

Carrizo is among many smaller operators forced to slow activity in the U.S.’s biggest oil field towards the end of this year after the Permian’s rapid production growth overwhelmed pipelines. The lack of conduits left oil almost trapped, lowering in-basin prices to almost $18/bbl, or 26%, below the U.S. benchmark in September.

But with at least three major pipeline projects scheduled to come online next year, producers are now seeing the problem as a mere footnote in the basin’s ongoing story of surging production growth.

“It will be a series of events throughout 2019 that occur” to ease the bottleneck, Halliburton Co. CEO Jeff Miller told Bloomberg TV this week. “It’d be easy to see, as we finish the year, things being perfectly normal.”

This year, the number of wells drilled but waiting to be fracked has increased 50% to 3,722, indicating a new wave of production is set to be unleashed once the pipes are ready, spending budgets are approved and frack crews are available.

This matters to world oil markets. West Texas Intermediate has tumbled almost 20% since the beginning of October as fears over U.S. sanctions against Iranian ease. Added production from the Permian would further this trend. Indeed, it bolsters the view that American oil production is in an exponential growth phase.

The U.S. surpassed Russia in August to claim the title of the world’s top oil producer after posting the largest year-on-year output increase in its history. The Permian accounts for about a third of the country’s output and is the world’s fastest-growing major oil field. Consultant Rystad AS sees U.S. production climbing another 45% to as much as 16.5 MMbpd by 2030.

Permian legend Mark Papa, who was a pioneer of U.S. shale as CEO of EOG Resources Inc. from 1999 to 2013, agrees that pipeline shortages “should go away by year end 2019” and may even turn into a surplus.

However it’s not all plain sailing thereafter, Papa, who’s now CEO of Centennial Resource Development Inc, said in an interview last month.

“Some of the other issues like personnel and water handling issues are some of the more long term issues,” he said. There are “insufficient people to get the work done.”

Range Resources Receives Philanthropy Award.  The Washington County Community Foundation held their annual Philanthropy awards and recognition banquet. And in a room full of local people dedicated to community service and charitable giving, Range Resources CEO and President Jeff Ventura humbly accepted the Foundation’s Charles C. Keller for Corporate Philanthropy. As he spoke to the assembled guests, Ventura talked about why southwestern Pennsylvania is special to him and to the employees of Range Resources.

“I was born and raised here in western Pennsylvania. I know how close-knit the communities are and how much the people in this region and in this county support one another. Organizations like the Community Foundation are part of what make this area such a great place to live and work. Washington County is a very special place for Range and our employees, and we are so proud to be a part of this community. We pioneered the Marcellus Shale not far from here, and it is where Range has grown as a company for nearly 15 years.”

Anadarko Sells Midstream Assets.  Independent producer Anadarko Petroleum (APC) on Thursday announced it’s selling most of its midstream assets for $4.025 billion to Western Gas Partners.

At the same time, Western Gas Partners (WES) announced it’s merging with Western Gas Equity Partners (WGP), following a number of master limited partnerships looking to simplify their organizational structure – and hopefully, save money.

LNG Plant Coming to NEPA.  (Thank you, MDN)  We have some exciting news to share. A company called New Fortress Energy is planning to build an LNG (liquefied natural gas) liquefaction plant in Wyalusing (Bradford County), PA. The $800 million plant will supercool and liquefy locally extracted Marcellus Shale gas and ship it first by truck, eventually by rail, to “customers in the U.S. as well as abroad.” Meaning exports. How cool is that? It seems that LNG liquefaction plants no longer have to be located along a shoreline to engage in exports.

PA Permits November 1, to November 8, 2018

Joe Barone 610.764.1232

Vera Anderson 570.337.7149

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