CEO Shake-up Explained: Taconic Capital Jerking WPX’s Chain

don't yank my chainA bit more insight into the sudden departure of WPX Energy CEO Ralph Hill that MDN told you about on Tuesday (see WPX Energy CEO Ralph Hill is Out, Interim CEO James Bender is In). WPX’s former parent, Williams, is being jerked around by corporate raiders who have become its largest investor (see Bad News: Corporate Raiders Take Aim at Williams). In what seems like very strange timing (coordinated attack?) WPX is also being jerked around–in this case by its second largest investor, Taconic Capital Advisors. It was Taconic that apparently wanted Hill gone and one of their own installed on the board. So WPX announced yesterday they’ve reached an “agreement” with Taconic to expand the board by one member, adding Michael Schwartz, a principal and portfolio manager at Taconic, to the WPX board.

It’s all rather ominous if you ask us. Never a good thing to have so-called investors who don’t give a fig about the company jerking management around this way and that with everybody running for cover and nothing constructive getting done. Here’s the statement issued yesterday by WPX about their “agreement” (at the end of a investment gun barrel) with Taconic:
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EQT to Spend $1.1B on Marcellus Drilling in 2014, $145M on Utica

EQT, one of the largest drillers in the Marcellus Shale, released their 2014 “guidance” (what we’ll do next year) update yesterday. And boy oh boy is it a duesy for the Marcellus. EQT says they’ll spend an eye-popping $1.1 billion and drill 186 Marcellus Shale wells in 2014. In the Utica Shale, EQT plans to spend $145 million and drill 21 wells. EQT will actually spend more money to drill in the Upper Devonian Shale layer than the Utica: $155 million to drill 30 wells in the UD.

EQT will spend the vast majority of it’s planned $1.9 billion in capital expenditures in the northeast in 2014. Here’s the update with full details:
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CONSOL to Use Electric Motors for Drilling at Pittsburgh Airport

This is really cool. CONSOL Energy announced yesterday at their “second and final” public workshop on drilling at the Pittsburgh Airport that they will use electric motors to drill on airport property. This is the first time they’ve tried it. By using electric, CONSOL says it will “significantly reduce emissions and noise during development.”

CONSOL was the winning bidder to drill on (and under) airport property–drilling that will bring the airport as much as a half billion dollars in fees and royalty payments (way more than they’ll ever get from gate fees from airlines). CONSOL is slated to begin drilling in July 2014 with plans to drill a total of 45 Marcellus Shale wells. Here’s the details from yesterday’s meeting:
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Millennium Scraps Cortland-to-Syracuse Pipeline, Binghamton Next?

In May MDN told you about plans by the Millennium Pipeline to expand “south to north,” to haul Marcellus Shale gas from Cortland to Syracuse, NY, launching a non-binding “open season” to gauge interest (see The Irony: Millennium Pipeline Expanding in NY for More Shale Gas). The Cortland-to-Syracuse pipeline was part of a larger plan, to go from Binghamton-to-Syracuse. The Millennium’s plan is/was to build a pipeline from Binghamton to Cortland first, and then from Cortland on to Syracuse. The open season in May was to see if there would be enough interest for the Cortland to Syracuse leg. Apparently, there was not.

An article in the Syracuse Post-Standard yesterday says the Millennium has scrapped their plan to build the Cortland-to-Syracuse pipeline. And, even more surprisingly, the Binghamton-to-Cortland pipeline (where the Millennium would connect to the Dominion Transmission pipeline) is now ominously “under review.” Which sure looks to us like the entire project may be scrapped. Question: Did the ever-present opposition from anti-drilling nutters sink the Millennium project?…
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Energy Industry Leaders Gather at Platts Forum in NYC

One week ago, MDN editor Jim Willis attended the Platts Global Energy Outlook Forum in New York City. The Forum, an annual event that attracts the titans of the worldwide energy industry, was held at the swanky Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Although Jim has been traveling to NYC for years and prides himself on his ability to navigate Manhattan on the subway, every now and again he botches it–like this time. So he ended up walking an extra 6-7 city blocks after getting off at the wrong stop (doh!). But that’s OK. It was a brisk day and the walk did him good.

Rather than get on the ungodly 3:10 am bus from Binghamton to NYC, Jim elected to ride the 6:10 am bus, which was late arriving at the Port Authority due to traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel. So he missed the first session and joined the second session shortly after it had begun. But wow, what a session it was! Below Jim shares his notes from the session “Switching, Ditching and Bridging Fuels,” his notes and impressions from the lunch keynote address by DOE Sec. Ernest Moniz, and his notes from the afternoon session titled, “Midstream Gathers Momentum”. Jim got to hear some of the biggest names in energy. It was all a bit heady for a “small time” natural gas blogger with an attitude…
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OH House Republicans Take Up “Kill Utica Drilling” Tax

Here we go. The Ohio House has taken up and is now considering raising the severance tax on Utica Shale drilling much higher than it has been–which threatens to stall drilling in the state. Some RINO Republicans have signed on to the bill, following the lead of flaky Gov. John Kasich (also a Republican, increasingly looking like a RINO himself).

Here’s the latest on the “kill Utica drilling” tax:
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NOVA Chemicals Plans Expansion of Corunna Cracker in Sarnia

If the ethane produced in the Utica and Marcellus region doesn’t get processed in our region by way of an ethane cracker plant–and it won’t for at least another five years, even if a plant is green lighted today–it has to go somewhere else to be processed. That somewhere else is either the Gulf Coast or Canada, where large cracker plants are located. One of those crackers is operated by NOVA Chemicals in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Yesterday NOVA issued a press release that talks about their plans to expand the Corunna cracker to handle an additional 20% capacity coming from the Utica/Marcellus, which is good news for producers in the northeast.

NOVA is also planning to expand the manufacturing facilities that accept the output of the Corunna cracker, including a plant that manufactures polyethylene. Here’s the NOVA announcement from yesterday about what’s coming in the next few years in Sarnia…
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NYC Comptroller-Elect Scott Stringer: Anti-Fracking “Bully”

New York City’s anti-drilling comptroller-elect, Scott Stringer, will take office in January. Even before he ascends to his throne, Stringer is filing a friend of the court (or “amicus”) brief on behalf of the Town of Dryden. Dryden, you may recall, illegally voted to ban fracking and has been challenged all the way to the state’s top court. In filing the amicus brief, Stringer said he wants to use the law as a “bully pulpit”. More like he just wants to bully other people by (ab)using the law.

The really troubling aspect of Stringer’s character is his blatant disregard and mafia-like attitude that he’ll do what he wants to do and no one will stop him. Case in point: Stringer has not “ruled out” (meaning he’s planning to use) the $140 billion pension fund he’ll control when he assumes office to bully corporate boards over issues like fracking. Really nice guy that Scott Stringer…
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Niles, OH Does Complete Turnaround, Leases Land for Pipeline

What a complete turnaround–dare we say a “revelation”–in Niles, OH. In August, the Niles City Council voted to ban drilling. The measure they passed also prohibited the city from doing business with the drilling industry, which is a problem because the city does a lot of business with the industry (see Niles, OH Considers Vote to Rescind Ill-Advised Frack Ban). So a month after they passed the measure, City Council voted to rescind it (see Niles, OH Votes to Lift Frack Ban One Month After Passing It).

In a complete turnaround from their anti-drilling ways of just a few months ago, City Council voted yesterday, unanimously, to let Halcon Resources lay a new pipeline under a portion of city-owned land…
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Scranton TV Station: NEPA Community Benefits from Cabot (Video)

An interesting TV segment was recently filmed about the role of Cabot Oil & Gas in providing local jobs and a boost to the local economy where they drill in rural Susquehanna County, PA. The video, filmed by Scranton TV station WNEP Channel 16, highlights the partnership Cabot has developed with several vendors (supply chain) and points out Cabot’s long-term commitment to the community–a commitment that will go on for decades to come.

If you want “the other side of the story,” the side that shows what a good corporate citizen looks like and how gas drilling enormously benefits an entire community, take the time to watch this enlightening 6-minute video:
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