Cabot O&G Wants Consolidation, Won’t Rule Out PA Marcellus Sale

We have to confess, we are not only shocked, but somewhat distressed at news we are reading that Cabot Oil & Gas is considering all options, including a sale of its Marcellus acreage in Susquehanna County, PA. To be fair, and to keep it in balance, it seems that the company would prefer to add to its Marcellus acreage, rather than sell it. However, chief financial officer Scott Schroeder said at a conference in Denver yesterday that all options are on the table, including a Marcellus acreage sale “if the terms are right.” MDN editor Jim Willis lives next door to Susquehanna County (and regularly visits Montrose, PA), and knows landowners in the county signed with Cabot. You have to understand how fundamentally Cabot has changed the county, by investing $1.5 billion into the pockets of landowners over the past 10 years, along with spending another $3.1 billion to do the drilling (see Amazing: Cabot O&G Invests $4.6 BILLION in One PA County in 10 Yrs). Cabot produces nearly 2 billion cubic feet of natural per day from Susquehanna County–around 3% of total U.S. production. One county! One driller! Every landowner we know who is signed with Cabot LOVES the company. Even idle talk that the muckety mucks at the top would consider a sale of their Marcellus acreage will come as shock, we have no doubt. We have repeatedly heard Cabot officials state they are in Susquehanna County “for the next 40 years or more.” Unless, apparently, they decide to sell…
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PA Rep. Ortitay Intros Watered-Down Minimum Royalty Bill

Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Ortitay, Republican from South Fayette (Washington & Allegheny Counties), PA who replaced Jesse White in January 2015 (see Pro-Driller Ortitay Replaces Anti-Driller White in PA House) has introduced a new bill in the PA House to bridge the gap between landowners who want a guaranteed minimum royalty of 12.5% regardless of post-production costs, and drillers who adamantly oppose a guaranteed minimum royalty. Rep. Garth Everett, Republican from Lycoming County, has been the champion of landowners and their quest to stop what they see as an abuse of the contracts they signed by implementing a state-mandated 12.5% minimum royalty–even if post-production costs eat into it (see PA Rep. Garth Everett Reintroduces Minimum Royalty Bill, 3rd Time). Landowners and groups representing them, like the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO), point to abuses by companies like Chesapeake Energy and claim some drillers cook up deals with pipeline/processing companies to overcharge, deducting it from royalty checks, and then getting the money back from those pipeline companies via investments. Kind of a kick-back scheme. Drillers maintain you can’t upend legal contracts in response to one or two rotten apples in the barrel. Ortitay believes he can navigate the middle ground, proposing a bill that will require drillers to itemize the deductions made from royalty checks, and prevent drillers from sending landowners a bill, which is beyond-words offensive. Can you imagine any landowner signing a lease that requires the landowner to pay the driller when prices go low? It’s ludicrous, and Ortitay’s bill, House Bill (HB) 1708 aims to fix it…
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WVONGA Makes Plans to Push Forced Pooling Lite in 2018

The West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) plans to push, once again, for what MDN calls forced pooling lite in the next session of the legislature scheduled for early 2018. Forced pooling legislation in West Virginia has been put forward five times in the past seven years–and each time it has failed to win enough votes in the WV legislature. This year, WVONGA changed tactics and renamed forced pooling as co-tenancy and joint development (see WV Won’t Push Forced Pooling, Will Push Joint Dev. & Co-Tenancy). Co-tenancy says a majority of rights owners can vote to accept a lease for drilling. It corrects a situation in which multiple rights owners are listed for a property–and sometimes (often?) it’s difficult to track them all down and get them to sign on the dotted line. Joint development is a bit more nuanced. Currently there are a number of existing old leases, signed before shale drilling began, that prevents drillers from drilling a horizontal well across an individual property boundary line, until a new lease is signed. Joint development says if the driller already owns the leases on all adjoining properties they want to combine into a drilling unit, they can do so without signing a new lease. WVONGA says it corrects a loophole that prevents more drilling from happening. Rights owners say joint development legislation lets drillers have a freebie–instead of signing a new lease (for more money), the driller gets something never envisioned when the original lease was signed. WVONGA came close this year to getting co-tenancy and joint development passed–Senate Bill 576 (see WVONGA Delivers ~1,000 at Rally to Support Co-Tenancy, Joint Dev.). However, like other forced pooling bills before it, SB 576 didn’t get passed. So WVONGA has signaled it will push once again next year, this time renaming (euphemizing) forced pooling lite as “mineral efficiency”…
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More Evidence PA House Repubs Beginning to Cave on Severance Tax

We continue to read articles about the ongoing effort by Pennsylvania Democrats and some squishy Republicans to slap a severance tax on top of an existing impact tax on natural gas drilling in the Keystone State. As we pointed out yesterday, Philadelphia teacher’s unions are in the forefront of a plan to grab money from drillers and funnel it into the pockets of their members (see Drumbeat Continues: Tax PA Shale & Give Money to Teacher’s Unions). The PA Senate cooked up a horrible plan to implement a “modest” severance tax, along with a gross receipts tax that will tax natural gas again, at the consumer level (see Traitorous PA Senate Republicans Pass Severance Tax Bill). The PA House has stood firm, thus far, against the plan. But then we read PA House Majority Leader Dave Reed is beginning to cave (see PA House Beginning to Cave on Severance Tax? Maybe…). We’re now reading about other members, people we long thought solid, like Rep. Garth Everett (Lycoming County) who now says “The new tax on drilling remains an option.” REALLY disappointing, Rep. Everett. The way the conversation is now going, the House doesn’t have the stomach to slap a gross receipts tax (GRT) on natural gas, phones and electric–but they are A.OK with a severance tax. Since the GRT, under the traitorous Senate Republican plan, is supposed to provide around $400 million in revenue and the severance tax $100 million, what happens without the GRT? Will House Republicans ratchet up the severance tax even more? It’s rapidly turning into a mess. Below is the latest chatter we’ve found, along with a new letter from the Marcellus Shale Coalition to the House leadership warning of the precarious situation a new severance tax will create for future job and economic growth in PA…
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Big Green Groups Stage Walkout at PA DEP Atlantic Sunrise Hearing

Last night the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) held one final public hearing for the Williams Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project–in Lancaster. As we previously reported, anti-fossil fuel nutters planned to gather prior to the meeting so they could choreograph a “walkout” of the meeting, as a form of protest (see PA DEP to Hold Final Atlantic Sunrise Hearing, Antis Plan Walkout). Indeed that is just what happened. A group of petulant babies got up during the meeting, theatrically put on surgical masks, and walked out. They then held their own meeting outside, to regurgitate the same lies and smears they’ve been spreading for months. Meanwhile, inside the meeting, the adults who remained spoke up about legitimate concerns with the project, which is why the meeting was held in the first place…
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EIA Makes Big Changes to Monthly Drilling Report, Combines M-U

MDN’s favorite government agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), has just made big changes to our favorite monthly report–the Drilling Productivity Report (DPR). The DPR is the EIA’s best guess, based on expert data crunchers, as to how much each of the U.S.’s seven major shale plays will produce for both oil and natural gas in the coming month. Until now, the EIA has always treated the Marcellus (primarily drilling in PA and WV) and the Utica (primarily in OH) as two separate shale plays. Beginning with this month’s report, they are combined into “Appalachia.” The stated reason for the change: “With the increasing number of wells in Pennsylvania being drilled into the Utica formation and some wells in Ohio producing from the Marcellus shale, the previous regional definitions based on surface boundaries are becoming less meaningful, especially where the two plays overlap. Furthermore, combining the relatively small number of active rigs across the broader Appalachia region should improve the precision of our productivity estimates.” That’s not the only big change. EIA also added a new shale play to the list–the Anadarko Basin (found mostly in Oklahoma, with a few counties in Texas). Because of the addition of the Anadarko, natural gas production is predicted to jump from last month’s predicted 52 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) for August, to a whopping projected 59 Bcf/d in September. The newly combined Marcellus/Utica is projected to go from 24.3 Bcf/d in August to 24.6 Bcf/d in September, up 350 million cubic feet per day. Yikes! Combining the two regions really puts it in a different light…
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Perverse Corporate Raider Calls EQT Plan to Buy Rice “Perverse”

Barry Rosenstein – JANA Partners

Corporate raiders buy just enough shares of stock in a company so they can put one or two members on the board of directors and control the company. Once a raider gains control, he fires a bunch of people, sells a bunch of assets, declares the company “healthier” and the stock price goes up. Once the stock price jumps, the raider then sells his shares at a profit and moves on to the next victim. That’s how disgusting, PERVERSE corporate raiders work. So imagine our outrage at reading comments by corporate raider Barry Rosenstein, of JANA Partners, who is trying to stop the merger/buyout of Rice Energy by EQT. Rosenstein calls the deal “perverse,” nothing more than a way for corporate executives to boost their own salaries. Kind of like the pot calling the kettle black, don’t you think?…
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Update on MarkWest Processing Plant Proposal for Smith Twp

MarkWest facilities – click for larger version

The MarkWest Harmon Creek Complex planned for Washington County, PA continues to make progress. Last fall NGI’s Shale Daily reported that MarkWest planned to build a new processing plant to process natural gas for Range Resources (see MarkWest Building New Processing Plant in Washington County, PA). But following the initial announcement, all went quiet and the project went on “indefinite hold.” In May of this year, the project restarted when MarkWest officials attended a Smith Township planning commission meeting (the town where it will get built) to discuss the project (see MarkWest’s Washington, PA Processing Plant Plans Reactivated). According to MarkWest, plans call for initially building one cryogenic plant and one de-ethanizer. Eventually MarkWest wants to build four cryogenic plants and two de-ethanizers at the Harmon Creek Complex. MarkWest reps were back before Smith Township supervisors on August 2nd to discuss more about their plans. The town must grant a “conditional use” permit before the project can get built. Before that happens, the town wants certain things in writing…
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Michigan County Tells FERC NEXUS Won’t Clean Up After Itself

The Washtenaw County (Michigan) Road Commission has written a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requesting FERC deny a certificate to build the NEXUS Pipeline because (they claim) NEXUS has bullied them. It seems the Road Commission has been working with NEXUS over the past year to prepare for the pipeline. The Road Commission wants NEXUS to jump through all sorts of hoops, do handstands, backflips, and in general, dance to the Road Commission’s tune. And because NEXUS isn’t willing to bend all the over backwards, the Road Commission is miffed. The Road Commission is the lord of their domain, and no outsider is going to do anything without their permission. So the Road Commission has run to mommy (FERC) and started bawling that NEXUS are meanies and they won’t pick up after themselves and they’re just BULLIES. So FERC should just go ahead and shut the whole $2 billion, 255-mile interstate pipeline project down (that will run from Ohio through Michigan)–because of one whiny Road Commission in one county…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Tue, Aug 15, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Appalachinan Basin provides economic boost to northeastern US; Delaware Riverkeeper blithely ignores the rules; Monroe County, OH Chamber preps for economic growth from o&g; pipelines and coal mines intersect under Hare Krishna shrines in WV; update on Sabine Pass LNG exports; the myth of natgas as a bridging fuel; Chesapeake stocks down 41% this year; Mexico becoming biggest export market for US energy; Cheniere opens office in China to attract more LNG deals; China expanding shale drilling; and more!
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