Drilling Activity is Linked to the Price of Natural Gas

I suppose the headline of this post may have you saying, “It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.” But how, exactly, does the spot price for natural gas relate to drilling activity? Can we quantify it? Let’s try.

In a recent article on an investment blog called Energy & Capital, author Keith Kohl offers some excellent insights into the natural gas marketplace from the perspective of those interested in investing in it. And along the way, he makes some observations well worth reading for landowners in the Marcellus. I encourage you to read the entire article.

Here are just a few insights from his article:

[N]atural gas has been treading water. After deteriorating more than 70% since July records, prices have fallen below $4/Mcf this week. That’s a level many people thought they’d never see. And to make matters worse, I’ve been hearing more and more people calling for natural gas to plummet below $2/Mcf and stay in that range for several months.

Developing…shale sources will be extremely difficult (or even nonexistent) if natural gas prices fall below $2/Mcf for a sustained period. The depreciation of natural gas prices since July has already caused companies across the board to slash exploration and production spending.

Much like the oil industry, not a week passes that I don’t see another project being delayed or canceled. Furthermore, the number of active drilling rigs has been in serious decline. The latest numbers from Baker Hughes Inc. reported that the number of exploration rigs has dropped nearly 45%. And if prices continue to remain this low, you can bet we’ll see even more rigs going silent.

That means production is headed one way—much lower.

But his longer term prediction is not gloomy. He believes prices and production will start to improve in 2010 when an improving economy, more demand and less supply kick in. In the article he also offers his opinion on liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports, and his thoughts on which companies to invest in (EOG Resources is one of them). Read the whole article! It’s well worth it.

Based on Mr. Kohl’s views and other sources, this is Marcellus Drilling News’ take: If natural gas prices stay at or above $4/Mcf ($4 per thousand cubic feet), drilling will continue and slowly expand. That price level is just above break even for energy companies. If the price goes higher at $5-$6/Mcf, happy days are here again. If the price drops to $2/Mcf and stays there, production all but stops because energy companies will lose money.

Read the full article: The Inevitable Crunch in Natural Gas Supply… and How to Prepare Your Portfolio