Is Shell Pulling Out of Pennsylvania Marcellus?

Is Shell (or SWEPI, formerly known as Shell Western E&P Inc.) leaving its Pennsylvania Marcellus drilling program behind? You may recall we posted a story in June quoting Tonya Williams, general manager for Appalachia with Shell, as stating (during her talk at the DUG East event in Pittsburgh) that Shell plans to spend $150 million to drill wells on four pads in 2018, all of it in Tioga County (see Shell Focused on Single PA County, No New Drilling in Other Areas). Although Shell has wells and acreage in 10 Pennsylvania counties, Tioga is the focus for this year. Barley two months later, in early August, MDN received a note from a trusted reader saying that Shell is pulling out, ending its Marcellus program and sending their personnel to Texas. Frankly, we were skeptical.
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3 Drillers Pay $50K to Fund Mobile Emergency Unit for Belmont, OH

New mobile emergency response trailer (Credit: WTOV)

A feel-good story for your Friday. Three Utica Shale drillers operating in Belmont County, OH–EQT Corp., Ascent Resources and Antero Resources–between them donated $50,000 to the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency to purchase a mobile command unit trailer that can be hauled to sites where’s there is an ongoing emergency/crisis and used on location. Neighboring Monroe County will get to use it too. Taxpayers didn’t have to pay a dime. Everyone is tickled pink. Yes, there is some self interest in the donation, since better emergency response can theoretically aide their own workers in case of an emergency. But such incidents (in the shale industry) are rare. Chances are the trailer will be used for other types of emergencies. Which is just fine with the shale industry.
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Accident Kills Rig Worker on Shell Well Pad in Tioga County, PA

Middlebury Township, Tioga County

This news is a couple of weeks old, but we’ve only just happened across it while researching another story. On the morning of October 27, Mark Jones, an employee of Deep Well Services, was working at a Shell rig site in Tioga County, PA when “a large piece of equipment fell on him, pinning him to the platform 65 feet in the air where he was standing.” The blunt force trauma, hitting him in the head, killed him. We are always saddened to read of such accidents. Here is the one and only story we could locate describing what happened:
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EQT Tries to Gut WV 1982 Minimum Royalty Law for Flat Rate Leases

EQT certainly isn’t following Dale Carnegie’s advice on How to Win Friends and Influence People. Just the opposite, as the company continues to squeeze every last penny it can out of landowners’ pockets who hold old “flat rate” leases in West Virginia. We’ve reported on EQT’s efforts to overturn WV’s Senate Bill (SB) 360, passed earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice (see EQT Still Fighting WV Minimum Royalty Law for Flat Rate Leases). That law disallows post-production deductions for flat rate leases, ensuring landowners receive a minimum 12.5% royalty. In April, EQT sued to overturn the original law, from 1982, on which SB 360 rests–the law that guarantees a 12.5% royalty. Get rid of the original law, and the later law (disallowing deductions) disappears too.
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EQT Pays $394K for Acid Mine Leak in Mon River Following HDD Work

On January 29, 2017, EQT used underground horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to drill a hole under State Route 136 in Allegheny County, PA, to install a water pipeline. As they were drilling, using what we now know was an out-of-date map, EQT hit an abandoned coal mine full of water, and four million gallons of acid mine drainage (AMD) leaked into the Monongahela River. EQT worked hard and fast to stop the leak (stopping it two days later) and set up a system to prevent any further leaks. Now, nearly two years later, it’s time to pay the piper. EQT just agreed to a fine of $294,000 for violating the Clean Streams Law, and payment of an additional $100,000 to the Clean Streams Foundation to provide for maintenance, operation, and replacement of a system to keep AMD from leaking at the site in the future.
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EQT Stock Falls 46% in One Day, but Investors Didn’t Lose 46%

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Normally if a company’s stock falls upward of 50% in a single day, it indicates a catastrophe has happened. Bad news of biblical proportions. But such is not the case with EQT, the country’s largest natural gas producing company. EQT’s stock closed at $34.64 per share on Monday. By the end of Tuesday, it was $18.56, down 46.4%. Why? Because the company split in two, with EQT Corporation retaining all of the drilling assets, and a new company, Equitrans Midstream Corp., taking off with all of the midstream (pipeline) assets.
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WV Class Action Against EQT re Royalty Deductions Heads to Court

It’s been five years in the making, but finally a class action lawsuit that began in 2013, on behalf of 10,000 West Virginia landowners and royalty rights owners against EQT’s practice of deducting post-production expenses from royalty payments, will finally get its day in court in two weeks. That’s what we learn from an extended article published by ProPublica and the Charleston Gazette-Mail on the topic of WV drillers and their practice of “whittling away payments” from rights owners. Just over a month ago MDN told you about an elderly WV couple who won their private lawsuit against EQT on the same matter (see EQT Loses Post-Production Deduction Lawsuit to WV Couple). Based on the outcome of that lawsuit, EQT should be a tad nervous about this class action proceeding to trial.
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It’s Here! EQT Midstream Division Now Split into Standalone Co.

As of today, EQT Midstream, a division of EQT (the driller), is no more. In its place is Equitrans Midstream Corporation–a completely new, standalone company that is no longer tied to, nor a part of, EQT. The changeover happened at 11:59 pm Eastern time last night. Today is the first full day of a new era for EQT and its former midstream division. Thomas F. Karam is president and chief executive officer of the new Equitrans Midstream. What led to the split between EQT (the driller) and EQT (the midstream company)? We’ll explain.
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Chesapeake Signs Frac Sand Deal with Hi-Crush for Marcellus

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Hi-Crush Partners announced yesterday they’ve gotten Chesapeake Energy to sign a new, long-term frac sand supply agreement to buy Northern White frac sand to support Chessy’s completions program in the Marcellus (in Pennsylvania) and Powder River Basin (in Wyoming). Northern White sand comes from mines in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. But sand is sand, right? Why schlep sand all the way from Wisconsin (via rail) to Pennsylvania? Because sand is *not* just sand. Northern White has special properties that make it superior for fracking.
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Game On: NFG Accepts US EPA “Methane Challenge”

We’re not much of a fan of the federal Environmental Protection Agency–especially the agency under the jackboots of the Obamadroids. The Obama years saw egregious abuses and wild new regulations that tried to stamp out the fossil fuel industry. In March 2016, we told you about a new “voluntary” program set up by the Obama EPA called the Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program (see Dominion & NiSource Bow Down to Lord Obama, Worship the EPA). The program is aimed at trying to reduce the amount of so-called fugitive methane escaping into the atmosphere from oil and gas sources (never mind far more methane escapes into the atmosphere from the agriculture industry than oil and gas, such facts just get in the way of partisan politics). We’re still not sure we like the program, but it has (at least for now) remained voluntary. NFG, National Fuel Gas Company, with all five of its subsidiary companies, has just signed on to the program–to prove their dedication as good stewards of environmental resources.
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Anti Group Loses Penn Twp Frack Ban Case in PA Commonwealth Court

The last time we checked in (June) on a brewing frack ban in Penn Township (Westmoreland County), PA, a challenge to a local ordinance which allows Apex Energy and Huntley & Huntley to drill and operate wells rested with a county judge. Things have since rapidly progressed. We’re guessing the local judge ruled in favor of allowing the wells to be drilled because the case was appealed to PA Commonwealth Court. Late last week the judges in Commonwealth Court issued a ruling in favor of Penn Township’s “special exception” permits awarded to Apex Energy, allowing them to drill shale wells.
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Encino Takes Over from Chesapeake in Ohio Utica; Big Plans

The deal is done. On Monday, Encino Acquisition Partners completed its purchase of all of Chesapeake Energy’s Ohio Utica Shale assets for $2 billion, originally announced in July (see Stop Press: Chesapeake Sells ALL of its Ohio Utica Assets for $2B). The deal includes all of Chesapeake’s 933,000 Ohio acres (with 320,000 net Utica acres) and 920 operated and non-operated Ohio Utica wells. With the deal now done, Encino is signaling good things are ahead. The company will keep its Utica regional headquarters in Louisville, OH–right where Chesapeake had it. Encino has and will continue to operate two active drilling rigs in the Utica this year, and add a third rig next year. Encino CEO Hardy Murchison recently spoke about the company’s Utica plans moving forward. It has folks in Ohio excited!
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NFG 4Q18: Production Higher, Northern Access Pipe Slips to 2020

Last week National Fuel Gas Company (NFG), which operates drilling subsidiary Seneca Resources and pipeline subsidiary Empire Pipeline, issued its fourth quarter 2018 (everyone else’s 3Q18) update. Via Seneca Resources, NFG drills wells in northcentral and northwestern PA. Via Empire Pipeline, they build and maintain hundreds of miles of pipelines in PA and New York, where the company is headquartered. NFG operates a utility (gas and electric) company in addition to Seneca and Empire. A lot of spinning plates to watch. But they do a great job. Much of the focus of the update was on the upstream–on Seneca Resources. According to CEO Ron Tanski, in 2019 more than half of the company’s capital expenditures will go for Seneca’s drilling program. Seneca has and will continue to operate three drilling rigs, with plans to expand production by 24%.
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Shakeup: Gulfport CEO Michael Moore Fired, Interim CEO Appointed

Michael Moore – out as CEO of Gulfport Energy

Last week Gulfport Energy, an independent oil and gas driller with significant acreage positions in the Utica Shale of eastern Ohio and the SCOOP Woodford and SCOOP Springer plays in Oklahoma, issued its full third quarter 2018 update. Gulfport previously issued an operational update several weeks ago (see Gulfport 3Q18 Operations Update: 11 New Utica Wells). Gulfport didn’t issue the full update, with financials, until last week. Perhaps we now know why: the company canned their CEO, Michael G. Moore, following allegations that he used a company credit card, and the company chartered jet, for personal uses. Gulfport appointed COO Donnie Moore (no relation to Michael) to be interim CEO while they figure out next steps.
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Did Shale Well Methane Migration Cause SWPA Home to Explode?

On Wednesday a man in Clarksville (Green County), PA turned on his gas stove and it exploded, catching fire to and leveling the entire house. The man, his girlfriend and young child were helicoptered to a hospital burn unit. The working theory/assumptions are (a) the man didn’t smell mercaptan, therefore the source of the gas that exploded was not from the stove or line into the house itself, and (b) because there is an EQT shale well “across the street” and a gathering pipeline that runs “next to the house,” methane “may have” migrated from the shale well to the home, or methane leaked from the gathering line into the home.
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Antero 3Q18: Production Passes 3 Bcf/d in Oct; Less Drilling 4Q

Antero Resources, one of the biggest drillers in the Marcellus/Utica, passed an important milestone last month: Producing more than 3 billion cubic feet equivalent per day (Bcfe/d) in natural gas (and related hydrocarbons). All of that production is in the Marcellus/Utica. Looking strictly at the third quarter–July through September–Antero’s production averaged 2.7 Bcfe/d (29% of it liquids), which is a 17% increase over 3Q17 and an 8% increase over 2Q18. We’re pretty sure we are on solid ground in saying the only company that produces more is EQT, with an average of 4.1 Bcfe/d in 3Q18. Watch out EQT, Antero is catching up!
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