Marcellus Driller Vantage Energy Puts Itself Up for Sale

for sale signVantage Energy, a driller with operations in the Marcellus (in southwestern Pennsylvania) and in the Texas Barnett Shale, has had a bumpy ride over the past year or so. In 2014 Vantage planned to launch an initial public offering (IPO), hoping to raise $600 million–but later scraped that plan (see Vantage Energy Postpones IPO Citing Unfavorable Market Conditions). In December, the company was assessed a hefty fine by the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (see Vantage Energy Fined $1M for Multiple Errors at Greene County Site). And in February of this year, Vantage had the dubious distinction of being one of the companies on David Fessler’s oil & gas company “death list” of companies with debts four times or higher than earnings (see 19 Oil/Gas Companies on “Death List” – 8 are in Marcellus/Utica). [MDN Note of Apology: The Vantage in David Fessler’s list is Vantage Drilling, NOT Vantage Energy–in no way connected to Vantage Energy. We regret the error!] So it was no surprise for MDN to read that Vantage has put itself up for sale. The company has hired Barclays to help find a suitor to buy them. Among the potential suitors are several Marcellus drillers…
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McClendon’s New Empire Continues to Separate and Leave

we're outta hereAubrey McClendon’s new American Energy Partners continues to shed its component parts. Just two weeks ago MDN brought you the news that the largest subsidiary of the company in the Marcellus/Utica region, American Energy Appalachia Holdings, is being spun out into a 100% standalone company, changing its name to Ascent Resources (see Big McClendon News: Sells 35K Utica Acres, Creates New Company). Aubrey himself is still on the board of Ascent, but virtually everything about the new company, we’ve been told, has nothing to do with McClendon. It’s as if they’re running as far and fast as they can away from McClendon. Now, a second large subsidiary of American Energy Partners–the midstream part of the company–is doing the same thing. American Energy – Midstream, LLC announced today it is changing its name to Traverse Midstream Partners LLC (Traverse Midstream). Traverse is transitioning to a 100% standalone company, fully independent of the mother ship American Energy Partners. According to the press release, the spin-off into a new company was “contemplated since the company’s founding in June 2014.” The new company will be totally and completely separated effective July 1, 2015…
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Shell Receives Air Quality Permit from PA DEP for Cracker Plant

Finally, after months and months of waiting, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has granted an air quality permit that allows Shell to operate a proposed ethane cracker plant in Monaca (Beaver County), PA. MDN told you the DEP signaled they would approve the air quality permit back in March (see PA DEP Signals Approval for Shell Ethane Cracker Air Quality Plan). Three months later the DEP finally issued the permit–no small miracle given the agency is now run by PennFuture DEP Sec. John Quigley. Shell had stated getting the permit would be a “critical” step in the process to moving forward. Now that they have the permit, what kinds of encouraging words do we have from Shell? The permit “does not mean we have made a final decision to build the project.” Which is the same standard line they’ve delivered since 2011 when this whole process began (see Shell Commits to Building a Billion Dollar Chemical Plant in the Marcellus Region of U.S.). Four years of being teased with this project has led us to think we’ve contracted post traumatic cracker disorder (PTCD)…
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Odebrecht CEO Arrested; What Does it Mean for WV Cracker Plant?

Scandal has rocked Odebrecht, the Brazilian company that in November 2013 announced it wants to build a $4 billion ethane cracker plant complex near Parkersburg, WV (see WV Announces Brazilian Company to Build Ethane Cracker Complex). Marcelo Odebrecht, president and CEO of Odebrecht SA–one of the largest construction companies in South America–was recently arrested for being part of a plan that stole “billions of dollars” from Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil company. His arrest raises legitimate questions about the viability of the proposed Parkersburg ethane cracker project. We can all pretend that the arrest of the CEO of the company proposing to build the plant has little or no effect on the future of the project–but we’re not children. So let’s not pretend. What do you think is occupying Mr. Odebrecht’s attention these days–building a petrochemical plant in far-off West Virginia, or staying out of jail?…
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WV Gov Tomblin Not Ready to Give Up on Odebrecht Ethane Cracker

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the man who has worked hard to land an ethane cracker plant for his state, is still hopeful that WV will get them a cracker. In a wide-ranging talk at the Wheeling Rotary Club on Monday, Tomblin said Odebrecht, the Brazilian company that announced its interest in building an ethane cracker complex near Parkersburg, WV, continues to move forward with the project–“but at a slower pace.” That certainly is a bit of good news. We’ve not heard anything about Odebrecht advancing the ball on their project since the company announced in April, “the original configuration…needs to be re-evaluated, and a final investment decision on the project will require more diligence.” We took that to mean they’ve hit the pause button (see Odebrect Pushes the Pause Button on WV Ethane Cracker). But Tomblin and his administration don’t view it the same way. Instead of hitting the brakes, Tomblin says Odebrecht has simply reduced pressure on the gas pedal a bit…
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Are the Buyout Sharks Starting to Circle Chesapeake Energy?

shark finThe buyout sharks are circling midstream behemoth Williams, as we reported yesterday (see Energy Transfer Makes “Indecent Proposal” to Buy Williams for $48B). For some time, there have been rumors that the upstream sector may also see more buyout activity. Specifically, Chesapeake Energy is a favorite name that keeps reappearing. Are the buyout sharks starting to circle Chesapeake? MDN spotted an open letter to corporate raider Carl Ichan on the Seeking Alpha website. Icahn is the second largest investor in Chesapeake. We think the letter illustrates what’s wrong with capitalism, if we might be so bold as to say so. The letter writer encourages Ichan to make a bid for Chessy since the company’s stock is priced half today what it was a year ago. The letter writer predicts a buyout bid by Ichan would create a bidding war and somebody else would buy the company for big bucks, enriching Ichan and other investors (and no doubt lead to more Chesapeake employees losing their jobs). What if Ichan himself wins the bidding war he starts? No sweat. Just wait 6-12 months, says the letter writer, and then break the company apart into pieces and sell it off piece by piece and make 3-4x your original investment. We think that’s a phenomenally poor idea…
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More on PIOGA Request to Keep DEP in its Regulatory Box

Yesterday MDN brought you the story of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association’s (PIOGA) third request to intervene in the Act 13 lawsuit decided by the PA Supreme Court (see PIOGA Asks Supreme Court to Stop DEP Denying Permits Using Act 13). The point of PIOGA’s request is to make the DEP follow PA law when it comes to granting shale drilling permits. Our headline and some of the language we used in that article was not completely accurate–we’d like to admit that right up front (although our inaccuracy was not intentional). The headline states that the DEP has denied permits based on portions of the Act 13 lawsuit tossed out by the PA Supreme Court. In researching the issue and speaking with those knowledgeable about PIOGA’s request to the Supreme Court, we’ve not found a specific instance where the DEP has denied a permit based on the tossed out Section 3215(b)-(e). But while denying permits based on rejected portions of Act 13 is not taking place, something far more subtle and insidious IS going on–with the same result as if the DEP were denying permits based on tossed-out portions of Act 13. Let us explain…
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For the Children: ET Rover Pipeline $91M in School Taxes 1st Year

In the ongoing fracking wars, pipelines are the latest flash point for irrational anti-drillers. It used to be no one thought twice about a new pipeline going in the ground. But fear mongers from Big Green organizations like the Sierra Club claim those pipelines are a connection straight to Lucifer. We’ve seen groups of anti-fossil fuelers oppose pipelines like the PennEast, the Constitution, the Northeast Energy Direct and many others. One of those many others is the ET Rover pipeline, a 711-mile Marcellus/Utica natural gas pipeline that will serve mostly U.S. customers that will cost $3.7 billion to build and run from PA, WV and eastern OH through OH into Michigan and eventually into Canada. ET Rover is a project of Energy Transfer, the company making a play to take over Williams (see our other stories on that topic). This story is about ET Rover’s campaign to overcome opposition in Ohio where the majority of the pipeline (570 miles of it) will run. According to a press release issued yesterday, the ET Rover pipeline will generate more than $135 million in ad valorem tax revenue for Ohio during its first year in operation. Of that $135 million, an estimated $91 million will be directed to more than 36 local school districts. Perhaps the nutters opposing the pipeline should rethink their opposition before they screw their own kids out of $91 million? As you know, it’s always for the chil’ren. Libraries, hospitals, parks and senior centers are among other local entities that will benefit from the tax revenue from ET Rover…
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Williams Appoints New Top Attorney

Clarification: The new Williams lawyer, Sarah Miller, was not hired specifically to fend off the hostile takeover bid from ETE. Our original headline and lead sentence for this story may have left that impression (since updated). Ms. Miller, as we point out in the article, has worked for Williams for the past 15 years. Her appointment, according to a Williams official, was already in the works long before the ETE bid. However, we maintain that Ms. Miller will be very busy in the coming weeks and months because of the ETE bid.

Williams has a new top lawyer who will help defend the company in a hostile takeover bid from Kelcy Warren, CEO of Enterprise Transfer Equity. Yesterday MDN shared the news that Warren, after six months of unsuccessfully trying to woo Williams into a merger deal, has dropped that effort and begun a new effort–a hostile takeover of the company (see Energy Transfer Makes “Indecent Proposal” to Buy Williams for $48B). We don’t read much into the retirement of the previous top attorney at Williams–Craig Rainey. The press release says he retired. Since he was somewhere around 63 years old by our calculations, it’s not surprising Rainey retired. Replacing him is Sarah Miller who has worked for Williams for the past 15 years in various legal roles. Miller has been the “acting” top attorney at the company since March. Miller now has her hands full with an unwanted effort to take over the company…
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Summit Midstream Gets New Head of HSE, former TCEQ Commissioner

Summit Midstream has a small but growing presence in the Marcellus/Utica region. In 2013 Summit purchased a local pipeline gathering system in Doddridge County, WV from MarkWest Energy for $210 million (see MarkWest Sells Doddridge County, WV Pipeline System to Raise Cash). In June 2014, Summit bought 40% of Ohio Gathering for $377 million, a pipelines and processing plants operation in southeastern Ohio (see Summit Midstream Cuts $377M Check for 40% of Ohio Gathering). And in December 2014, XTO Energy inked a deal with Summit to build a local pipeline gathering network in southeastern Ohio–in Belmont and Monroe counties (see XTO Gets Serious in OH Utica, Hires Summit for Gathering System). Any major personnel changes that potentially affect the company are of interest here on MDN. Such a change has occurred. Summit announced yesterday that Zachary “Zak” Covar, former Commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), has joined Summit Midstream as Vice President in charge of Summit’s Health, Safety, Environmental and Regulatory affairs…
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