More Details on Southwestern Energy’s Marcellus Shale Plans from Earnings Call

From a Q4 2009 earnings call* held on Feb. 26, we learn the following about Southwestern Energy’s involvement in the Marcellus Shale:

At December 31, 2009, we had approximately 149,000 net acres in Pennsylvania prospective for the Marcellus Shale. Our undeveloped acreage position as of December 31, 2009 had an average remaining lease term of five years, an average royalty interest of 13%, and was obtained at an average cost of $594 per acre.

During 2009, we invested $40 million in Pennsylvania, almost all of which was for acquisition of acreage, including approximately 22,800 net acres in Lycoming County that was purchased for $8.7 million, or $382 per acre.

We are currently drilling our first horizontal well since 2008 in Pennsylvania. The Heckman Camp #1 well is located in Bradford County, and first gas production is expected in the area in the second quarter of 2010.

Later in the call was this exchange between Jeff Hayden, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw, and Steve Mueller, CEO of Southwestern Energy:

Jeff Hayden: Okay, appreciate that. And then, jumping up to the Marcellus really quickly, I just wonder if you could give us an update kind of how you’re looking at the drilling program for 2010 in terms of where you’re going to spot the wells, whether it’s Bradford, Susquehanna, Lycoming, et cetera. And then, kind of building on that, sort of an update on the takeaway capacity that you’re looking at and how you’re going to manage that.

Steve Mueller: Well, the rig that we’re running, we’ll drill between 20 and 24 wells this year. It is going to be all in Bradford County. It’s right on top of–I want to say right on top or within a mile or two of the Stagecoach Pipeline. And we have firm on that pipeline today of 20 million cubic foot and we’re building that going forward. And that’s the reason we’re drilling where we’re at, because we do have the capacity on that line to be able to do that. We’ll participate probably in another 20 wells. Most of those will probably be–a little bit maybe in the Bradford, but most will be in Susquehanna. And we’ll have a minority in those wells. And whatever the operator there is will have the takeaway, so we don’t have to worry about that portion.

Over the next year, we’ll keep one rig running, and then you’ll see us build that activity into the future. We’ll say the one area that will have the less drilling over the next couple of years will be in Lycoming County. That’s more 2012 and beyond before you see much drilling there.

*Southwestern Energy (Mar 1) – SWN 4Q 2009 Earnings Teleconference Transcript (PDF)

MDN Editorial: PA Landowners Need to Continue Opposing a Shale Gas Severance Tax

The severance tax, like a bad penny, keeps turning up. Pennsylvanians (and eventually New Yorkers) will have to stay vigilant against greedy politicians who can’t help themselves when there’s something nearby that can be taxed. Tax revenues equal money flowing through politicians’ hands, and that equals power. The latest example:

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th, of West Whiteland, has introduced legislation that would impose a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction and use the revenues from that tax to give Pennsylvania homeowners property tax rebates.

Dinniman said a 5 percent tax on the natural gas from the state’s Marcellus Shale reserves would, by 2014, provide the average homeowner $148 each year in property tax relief.

“Every election, all the politicians stand up and say, ‘We understand your pain. We understand what’s going on. We will bring property tax reform. We will lower your property taxes,’” Dinniman said. “Well, the answer is beneath our feet. It’s a mile down, but it’s beneath our feet.”

The tax, referred to as a severance tax, would be assessed per cubic foot of gas that is extracted, Dinniman said.*

It is a bald-faced lie that the money will go for property tax relief. Hopefully the good citizens of PA know that by now. After having been lied to for a generation (lottery money goes to schools, Social Security money stays in its own trust fund, etc.), I am hopeful that people are starting to wise up. A severance tax, if instituted, will go to Harrisburg where it will disappear into politicians’ hands to be used for other “urgent” needs. And everyone knows it.

Landowners are encouraged to continue to oppose the severance tax, which ultimately comes out of their own royalty checks.

*The Delaware County Daily Times (Mar 3) – Chesco pol proposes tax on Marcellus Shale gas reserves

4,300 Sign Petition to Encourage New York Leaders to Drill Here, Drill Now

The Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York today issued a press release encouraging landowners to sign their online petition to New York’s governmental leaders to encourage them to move forward—now—with allowing drilling in the Marcellus Shale in New York. Already, more than 4,300 have signed. Landowners who want to add their signatures to the petition can do so here: www.petitiononline.com/YESngNY/petition.html

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From the press release*:

Proponents of natural gas exploration petitioned the governor, lawmakers and regulatory agencies and lawmakers to allow drilling to be expanded in New York’s Southern Tier and Western Catskills.

More than 4,300 people have so far signed an online petition already, which reminds elected officials and regulators that harvesting clean-burning natural gas in New York will heat our homes, spur our economy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil for decades to come and bring thousands of job and billions of dollars to New York.

The petition, sponsored by the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, will remain open to those interested in urging decision-makers to form objective and scientific opinions on whether expanded natural gas exploration is right for New York. It is available at www.marcellusfacts.com.

“We are very pleased that many so right-minded New Yorkers have spoken up.” said Brad Gill, IOGA of NY executive director. “New York’s leaders have to focus on this tremendous opportunity for our communities and our state, instead being distracted by bad science and misinformation being spread by obstructionists who don’t actually understand our work and history of environmental stewardship.”

The petition follows a Jan. 25 outdoor rally in Albany, where 700 landowners and supporters raised their voices in support of natural gas extraction through a process known as hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking.” The delegation represented 23 landowner groups and 17,500 families.

The fracking process will help release natural gas locked in the Marcellus Shale formation by injecting pressurized water, sand chemicals and other ingredients to shatter the rock. It occurs deep underground and far from groundwater and surface water, and it has been performed safely in New York and nationwide for decades.

IOGA-NY was founded in 1980 to protect, foster and advance the common interests of oil and gas producers, as well as professionals and related industries in the State of New York.

*readMedia (Mar 3) – More than 4,000 New Yorkers Petition the State to Allow Expanded Natural Gas Exploration

East Resources Donates $50K to Tioga County, PA 4-H in Goodwill Gesture

East Resources, an independent oil and gas drilling company with a big stake in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, has just donated $50,000 to the Tioga County 4-H.

East Resources, Inc. today signed an agreement with Penn State’s Cooperative Extension Service to create a new 4-H endowment fund for Tioga County. East created the endowment with an initial principal investment of $50,000. The fund will be used to supplement financial support for the Tioga County 4-H program and may include educational awards for 4-H members.

“East Resources has a major stake in Tioga County’s future through its oil and gas interests, and our contribution to this endowment reflects East’s commitment to help sustain that future,” says Bob Long, the company’s executive vice president. “Tioga County’s young men and women are the key to the long-term health of our communities, and we appreciate the significant role that the county 4-H program plays in helping them grow into productive, self-directed citizens.”*

Non-profits are always looking for new funding sources. Given that East Resources plans to drill upward of 6,000-7,000 gas wells in Tioga in the next few years (see this story), it’s nice to see them “giving back” to the community in this gesture of goodwill.

*The Wellsboro Gazette (Mar 3) – East gives $50,000 to 4-H

Shaleshock Expert Agrees – Hydrofracturing Will Not Hurt You

Shaleshock Action Alliance, an anti-drilling group, recently sponsored a meeting at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, NY to discuss the potential negative consequences of horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing (a specific technique used in drilling for natural gas). Shaleshock’s expert speakers for the evening included two chemists and an endocrinologist. One of the chemists was Ron Bishop, a biochemist at SUNY Oneonta and someone who has worked with gas drilling companies and in construction. According to Mr. Bishop:

“Hydrofracturing is not the boogeyman under the bed; it is not going to hurt you,” Bishop said. “You’re more likely to have problems with transporting the 10 to 30 tons of chemicals to the drilling site.”*

Mr. Bishop’s concern is with the transportation of chemicals to drilling sites and the potential for accidents and spills. But the thing is, truckloads of the same chemicals go over our interstates every day, and travel down our rail lines every day. It’s true you don’t see trucks carrying these types of chemicals on back roads every day, but with proper precautions, there’s no reason why it can’t be just as safe on our rural roads as it is on our other transportation systems.

So Shaleshock’s own expert agrees—hydrofracturing is safe. Thanks for your candid honesty Mr. Bishop!

*Elmira Star-Gazette (Feb 23) – Marcellus Shale: Spills of drilling chemicals worry experts