BTU Analytics, according to their website, “provides independent fundamentals-based consulting and analytical subscription reports to the North American oil, NGL, and natural gas markets. Our focus is giving clients answers to complex questions supported by data and backed by analysis of the market from wellhead to burner tip.” BTU recently made a bold prediction. The company predicts Marcellus/Utica natural gas production will (already has) plateau at around 31 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d).
Must be BTU shared a recent subscription report with the reporters at Argus Media. Here’s Argus’ summary of the BTU report with their bold prediction:
Natural gas production in the US Appalachian shale region may flatten out at about 31 Bcf/d (878mn m³/d) and remain largely unchanged through 2027, according to a prediction from analysis firm BTU Analytics.
Output from the region’s Marcellus and Utica shales has hit new records each year for more than a decade, but the majority of Appalachian producers are tapping the breaks on production growth this year, the firm said.
Fewer large scale pipeline expansions scheduled for this year may also discourage drilling activity in the region. New pipelines last year allowed for year-over-year production to rise by 3.9 Bcf/d, but no major expansions are expected to bring new takeaway capacity to Appalachia in 2019.
Pressure from shareholders to move more towards free cash flow generation and lower debt could also cause producers to tighten the reins on activity this year.
Out of a group of five prominent producers in the region, Cabot Oil & Gas is the only company planning to grow its output this year, according to executive comments made by the companies in fourth quarter earnings calls and releases. Antero Resources, Range Resources, EQT and CNX all plan for their growth to be flat or lower than 2018 gains.
Appalachian production forecasts have been pipeline constrained for years, but now the region is transitioning, BTU Analytics said. Production there will now be constrained by limited in-basin demand growth, downstream constraints on pipelines and demand, escalating long-haul pipeline project costs and capital availability, the firm said.
Gas output from Appalachia rose in January at a slower rate than a month earlier. Gross production in January from that region hit 31.1 Bcf/d, up marginally from December and 18pc higher than a year earlier, according to the most recent data from the US Energy Information Administration. The small month-over-month increase may reflect some weather-related shut-ins and lower gas prices in the region.*
We track Marcellus/Utica production each month via the EIA’s Drilling Productivity Report. The February report predicts that M-U production will hit 31.6 Bcf/d this month, in March–another all-time record high (see EIA Feb ’19 Drilling Report: New NatGas Record Again).
BTU is a sharp outfit. They read and research and talk to folks throughout the industry. Could they be right? We know the numbers can’t go up forever–but we delight in telling you, our valued readers, when they go up month after month after month to new heights.
BTU’s prediction got us wondering, could they be right? Are we now on the cusp of hitting a ceiling in M-U production?
Best thing to do is look at the numbers. We produced the following chart from EIA production numbers for the Marcellus/Utica (EIA calls it “Appalachia” in their reports), going back five years:
Hmmm. Then we thought, let’s narrow that down to just the past 12 months:
You can see that production in the Marcellus/Utica has stayed in the 31 Bcf/d for four months in a row. Maybe BTU is on to something? The next two or three monthly DPRs will tell the story.
On the other hand, read our next post about EIA’s long-term M-U production predictions (see EIA: Texas, Even with Prolific Permian, Needs Marcellus/Utica Gas).
*Argus Media (Mar 7, 2019) – Appalachian natgas output to flatten: BTU Analytics
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