Cuts Coming to Shell’s Marcellus Shale Operations

chopping blockIn a statement issued yesterday, and from comments made by Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden on a “management day” analyst phone call, Shell has signaled they aren’t happy with the return they’re getting from their shale plays in the U.S., including the Marcellus. Specifically Shell has said they plan to decrease spending and investment, and trim operations, in dry gas (methane only) shale areas starting this year. Trim by how much? The statement they issued says 20%, but van Beurden is reported to have said 30% in his statements on the analyst call. In either case, look for Shell to sell some of the their 900,000 acres of Marcellus Shale leases and trim back on the 300 workers they currently have working in the Marcellus play.

It was just four years ago that Shell bought all of East Resources and their Marcellus operations (see East Resources Sells to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 Billion, Deal Includes All of East’s Marcellus Shale Operations). Apparently they now believe that was a bit of “irrational exuberance,” to borrow a phrase from Alan Greenspan. The odd thing for us is that much smaller companies, like Cabot Oil & Gas, make money hand over fist in dry gas-only areas of the Marcellus, but the big boys like Shell are hamstrung and don’t make money. Why is that? What gives the smaller players a leg up that simply can’t be matched by companies like Shell?…

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