Southwestern, Chesapeake Negotiate Lower Midstream Rates from Williams

Used to be when a driller signed a contract with a midstream company to gather, process and transport the company’s gas (or oil) to market, the driller was locked in for a minimum of 15-20 years. The rates NEVER change. Midstream companies will build expensive pipeline systems and all of the associated infrastructure only if they’re guaranteed a certain return. Which is why investors love midstream companies–it’s like investing in an annuity, a guaranteed rate of return for 15-20 years to come. And then the bottom fell out of the market. As we wrote about Wednesday, some bankrupt drillers are seeking court action to dissolve those contracts (see Shock: Judge May Allow Drillers to Cancel Gathering Pipeline Deals). We have another new development to tell you about: drillers not in bankruptcy are renegotiating once sacrosanct, set-in-stone contracts, to reduce the amount they pay midstreamers. Southwestern Energy and Chesapeake Energy have both recently negotiated lower rates with Williams. The beginning of a trend?…

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