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)