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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Who’s the Biggest NatGas Producer in the Ohio Utica?

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) and St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored an update on the Utica Shale and its impacts in southeastern Ohio at a one-day event held yesterday at Belmont College. The upshot of the day seemed to be this: The Utica is still creating thousands of jobs, and still attracting millions of dollars in investment. Among the speakers were reps from both EQT and Ascent, who had some interesting comments about their respective operations. Question: Who do you think is the largest natural gas producer in Ohio today? One of the speakers made the surprise claim that her company is now the top producer in Ohio.
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Mystery Seller of Ohio Utica Acreage to Ascent Finally Identified

At the end of June, Ascent Resources, a company founded by Aubrey McClendon after he left Chesapeake Energy, announced it is buying 113,400 Utica Shale acres along with 93 operating wells located in eastern Ohio for $1.5 billion (see Ascent Resources Spends $1.5 Billion to Buy OH Utica Acreage, Wells). The new acreage tips Ascent over the 300,000 Utica acre line and catapults the company into one of the largest privately owned drillers (exploration and production) in the U.S. The companies selling their Utica assets are CNX Resources and Hess (selling a joint venture they co-owned, each selling their share for $400 million each, for a total of $800 million), Utica Minerals Development (a subsidiary of First Reserve, a private equity firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, and EMG), and a fourth, unnamed mystery seller. Now that all of the deals have closed, the mystery seller has been revealed…
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Chesapeake, Ascent Resources Float New Round of IOUs

Although the two companies and their actions are unrelated, we found it interesting that both Ascent Resources and Chesapeake Energy (big Marcellus/Utica drillers) floated plans yesterday to raise more money by issuing new IOUs (called “notes”). In the case of Ascent (founded by Aubrey McClendon), they’re issuing $600 million of new notes (due payable in 2026) in order to pay off $525 million worth of notes due in 2022. In the case of Chesapeake Energy (co-founded by Aubrey McClendon), they’re issuing $1.25 billion in new notes (due payable in 2024 & 2026) to repay a loan due in 2021. Keep kickin’ that debt can down the road…
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3 Counties, 5 Drillers Led OH’s 50% Increase in 2Q Gas Production

The Pareto Principle is alive and well in the Buckeye State. You may know it as the 80/20 rule, or in this case, the 75/25 rule. The rule that states roughly 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. Last week MDN brought you the latest update from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources–their second quarter 2018 report showing all production coming from the Ohio Utica Shale (see Top 25 Producing Gas & Oil Wells in Ohio Utica for 2Q18). While MDN provided you with Top 25 lists showing the best-performing wells (both gas and oil) during 2Q, and while we provided you with a better spreadsheet to view the information than that provided by the ODNR itself, our analysis was basic and high level. Utica natgas production was up a big 42% over the same period last year, and Utica oil production was up 11%–a cumulative 50% increase when you convert it all into equivalents. The experts at S&P Global Platts have done a deep dive into the numbers and have found that three counties represent 75% of all production in 2Q18, and five drillers represent 75% of all production in 2Q18. Which counties and which drillers? Read on…
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OH Town Threatens to Sue Ascent Resources re Road & Lease Issues

The mayor of Bloomingdale, OH, in Jefferson County, wants Ascent Resources to “come to the table for more fair arrangements on leases, road use agreements and fixing already-damaged roads.” The mayor and the village council are threatening to sue Ascent if they don’t “come to the table.” In other words, pay up or else. What has Ascent done to anger the mayor and village? Primarily the issue involves RUMAs–road use maintenance agreements. Some roads the village says Ascent uses have been damaged and the village wants them fixed. They also want a new agreement in place to pay for more fixes in the future. The mayor also says Ascent is using pressure tactics in leasing land from village residents. Some one-third of the village is now leased. These problems have been going on for about a year now, and the situation seems to be coming to a head…
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Ascent’s $1.5B OH Utica Deal Yields $1.4M in Fees for 2 Counties

In late June Ascent Resources, a company founded by Aubrey McClendon after he left Chesapeake Energy, announced it is buying 113,400 Utica Shale acres along with 93 operating wells located in eastern Ohio for $1.5 billion (see Ascent Resources Spends $1.5 Billion to Buy OH Utica Acreage, Wells). It’s a big deal, making Ascent one of the largest privately owned exploration and production companies in the U.S. It’s also a big deal for the counties where the land is changing hands. A large part of the acreage is located in Jefferson County, with sizable chunks in Belmont, Noble and Harrison counties. Why is it a big deal for the counties? It takes time (and consequently fees) to transfer all those thousands of leases from one owner to another. Counties stand to make a big windfall. For example, in Jefferson County, some $305 million worth of transfers will take place between CNX and Ascent, netting the Jefferson clerk’s office $1.2 million in fee revenue! It is the single largest ownership transfer in Jefferson County history. In neighboring Belmont County (to the south of Jefferson), $58 million worth of transfers are taking place, netting the county $173,000 in transfer fees. No word yet on how much money Noble and Harrison stand to make…
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Ascent Resources Spends $1.5 Billion to Buy OH Utica Acreage, Wells

Last Thursday, Ascent Resources, a company founded by Aubrey McClendon after he left Chesapeake Energy, announced it is buying 113,400 Utica Shale acres along with 93 operating wells located in eastern Ohio for $1.5 billion. The new acreage tips Ascent over the 300,000 Utica acre line and catapults the company into one of the largest privately owned drillers (exploration and production) in the U.S. The companies doing the selling are CNX Resources and Hess (selling a joint venture they co-owned, each selling their share for $400 million each, for a total of $800 million), Utica Minerals Development (a subsidiary of First Reserve, a private equity firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, and EMG), and a fourth, unnamed mystery seller. The CNX/Hess acreage (78,000 net acres of the 113,400 acres) is located in the wet gas window of Belmont, Guernsey, Harrison and Noble counties. We’re not sure about the location of the other acreage. The CNX/Hess jv sale marks Hess’ total exit from the Utica Shale. So how will Ascent pay for all of their new shiny new assets? After all, they only just emerged from bankruptcy in April (see Ascent Resources Marcellus Exits Chapter 11 Bankruptcy). [Correction: Ascent Resources Marcellus was the part of the Ascent business that filed for bankruptcy and is not related to Ascent Resources Utica and this new transaction.] Ascent will pay for it by issuing $965 million in new shares of equity (private stock), and borrowing $535 million under their existing line of credit…
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Ascent Resources Marcellus Exits Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

In February, MDN brought you the news that Ascent Resources Marcellus, a company founded by Aubrey McClendon after he left Chesapeake Energy, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (see Ascent Resources’ Marcellus Unit Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy). Ascent Marcellus is one of several companies using the Ascent name. The Ascent Marcellus piece of the pie owns 43,000 of leases and has drilled some 547 wells in West Virginia. Big operation. The good news (if there’s ever good news in bankruptcy), is that 75% of the debtholders signed onto a prepackaged bankruptcy plan. The plan worked. On March 30 Ascent announced it has officially emerged from bankruptcy with a new board of directors and the same management team as before…
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Ascent Resources Marcellus Plans to Exit Bankruptcy in Record Time

On Wednesday MDN brought you the news that Ascent Resources Marcellus, a company founded by Aubrey McClendon after he left Chesapeake Energy, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (see Ascent Resources’ Marcellus Unit Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy). Ascent Marcellus is one of several companies using the Ascent name. The Ascent Marcellus piece of the pie owns 43,000 of leases and has drilled some 547 wells in West Virginia. Big operation. The good news is that, according to Ascent, 75% of the shareholders in the company are already on board with a plan to hand over ownership to existing debtholders. Ascent worked hard to put all of their ducks in a row and presented a “prepackaged” bankruptcy plan to the court–a plan that should make things go fast. In fact, Ascent Marcellus expects to exit bankruptcy by March 31st. Below we details about who Ascent owes money to, and how they plan to order “one prepackaged bankruptcy to go” at the bankruptcy court drive-thru window…
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Ascent Resources’ Marcellus Unit Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Please see comments from Ascent Resources below in the 2/7/18 update…

We have to confess, we did not see this one coming. Ascent Resources Marcellus, a company founded by Aubrey McClendon after he left Chesapeake Energy, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Note that Ascent, which was spun off from the McClendon company American Energy Partners, has a split corporate structure. On paper there are a number of “Ascent Resources” companies: Ascent Resources, LLC; Ascent Resources Utica Holdings, LLC; Ascent Resources – Utica, LLC; Ascent Resources Management Services, LLC; and, Ascent Resources Marcellus Holdings, LLC. Same management team for all and frankly, as a practical matter, they are all one company. But it is the last one in the list, Ascent Marcellus, that is seeking bankruptcy protection. According to the company website, Ascent Marcellus focuses its drilling activity on 43,000 leased acres in West Virginia. Ascent Marcellus has a couple of loans it can’t repay, so it’s taking the bankruptcy route which will transfer ownership of that portion of the company from existing shareholder to debtholders. We’ve seen this movie before. Nobody gets screwed except existing shareholders–at least, that’s the theory. According to an announcement by Ascent, the “restructuring” as it’s called, will not affect landowners or vendors. This is “an operational restructuring and is not intended to restructure or compromise any vendor, service provider, contractor, lessor, working interest owner or royalty owner obligations.” Of course “intent” and reality are sometimes two different things. We’ll keep a close eye out as this develops…

2/7/18 Update: Ascent Resources sent clarifications to our statements and assumptions above. Below are Ascent’s comments as provided, verbatim. We thank Ascent for taking the time to comment.

Regarding the comment that they are basically the same company:

It isn’t all the same company. This is a very important distinction. There are several different companies with similar names that are managed by another separate company that also has a similar name. The Marcellus company always had separate assets in West Virginia, a separate capital structure and separate debt that was collateralized solely by the West Virginia assets. It’s not all the same company.

Regarding the comment that “Nobody gets screwed except existing shareholders–at least, that’s the theory.”

You should know that Marcellus private equity owners hold more than 75% of the stock and control the board, so they were integrally involved in determining the most appropriate outcome for shareholders as part of the Chapter 11 discussions. So “in theory” does not apply to the detailed plan of reorganization that has been worked out between the company’s owners and the creditors. Continue reading

OH Utica Production 3Q17: Ascent Res. Dominates Top Producers

The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) has just issued production numbers for the third quarter of 2017. The good news is that production is up for both natural gas AND oil. Utica natgas production saw a huge percentage increase–up 27.51% over the same period last year. 2Q17 Utica natgas production increased 16% over the previous year, and 1Q17 production increased 13% over the previous year. Although the trend has been up this year, 3Q17’s jump is really big (nearly double) compared to previous quarters. The even better news is that until 3Q17, Ohio oil production was trending down quarter after quarter–but in 3Q17 the trend reversed. Utica oil production was up slightly, close to 3%, over the same period last year. The ODNR report lists 1,796 horizontal wells, of which 1,760 reported production of some amount. The average natgas well produced 261,681 million cubic feet (Mcf) during 3Q17, and the average oil well produced 2,367 barrels of oil. But as we all know, each well is unique. Below we give you an MDN exclusive, showing the top 25 natgas wells and top 25 oil wells. In 3Q17, the top 3 natgas wells were drilled and operated by Ascent Resources. Rounding out the top 5 were two wells drilled by Rice Energy (now owned by EQT). All top 5 producing natgas wells in 3Q17 are located in Belmont County. What about oil wells? The top 2 producing oil wells were drilled by Ascent Resources. Coming in at #3 was a well drilled by Eclipse Resources, followed by #4 drilled by Chesapeake Energy. Rounding out the top 5 producing oil wells was a well drilled by Ascent Resources. Four of the five top producing oil wells are located in Guernsey County, with one in Harrison County. You might say, with some justification, that Ascent Resources (formerly called American Energy Partners, Aubrey McClendon’s startup following Chesapeake Energy), dominated the top producing wells for 3Q17, for both natgas and oil…
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McClendon-Founded Ascent Resources Looks to Launch $3.5B IPO

The Wall Street Journal is reporting rumors that the privately-held Ascent Resources, which targets the Utica Shale in Ohio, is shopping for bankers to help it with an initial public offering (IPO). Ascent reportedly is aiming for a stock market valuation of $3.5 billion. Ascent was formerly known as American Energy Partners (AEP), founded by Aubrey McClendon after he was unceremoniously dumped as CEO of Chesapeake Energy–the company he co-founded. AEP set up a number of subsidiary companies to target different shale plays. One of the largest was aimed squarely at the Ohio Utica (American Energy Partners–Utica LLC). That company later left the AEP fold, under pressure from investors, and became an independent company, renaming itself as Ascent Resources. Ascent, just like founder Aubrey, went on a money-raising binge after departing the AEP fold. In March 2016 Ascent floated 2.2 billion common units (think shares of stock) to raise $500 million (see Ascent Resources Sells More of Company to Pay Down Debt). Ascent planned to use that money to pay off existing notes, or IOUs. In August 2016, Ascent flirted with bankruptcy but pulled its bacon out of the fire by restructuring its debt (see Ascent Resources Talking to Creditors to Restructure $1.2B Debt). In November of last year, Ascent sold another 3.5 billion common units, hoping to raise $787 million to pay down outstanding debt (see Ascent Resources Sells Another 3.5 Billion Units for $787 Million). In March of this year, Ascent floated yet more IOUs, hoping to raise $1.5 billion (see Ascent Resources Continues Aubrey’s Borrowing Ways: $1.5B in IOUs). The company now plans to convert itself into a public stockholding company, in order to raise a staggering $3.5 billion…
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Utica Leasing Takes Off in Jefferson County, OH – Bonus $6K/Acre

In early June, MDN brought you the news that officials with Ascent Resources (formerly American Energy Partners) and Chesapeake Energy said their respective companies are putting a renewed focus on Jefferson County, OH in the coming months (see Uptick in Utica Drilling Predicted for Jefferson County, OH). We have some evidence that their words are becoming actions. MDN pulled the list of requests to drill new horizontal wells in Jefferson for Jan 1 – Jun 29 from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources’ website. Indeed, we found 19 such permit requests, most of them from Ascent and a few from Chesapeake (see the chart below). However, before the drillbit hits the dirt, you must first lease land. An MDN reader and landowner who lives in Jefferson County sent us an update on leasing activity in the county–very exciting leasing activity. Not only is Ascent active, so too is Gulfport Energy…
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Uptick in Utica Drilling Predicted for Jefferson County, OH

Jefferson County, OH is not the first (or even second or third) county you think of when you think “Utica drilling.” But that may soon change. Jefferson shares borders with other counties that are heavily drilled–Carroll, Harrison and Belmont. There has been some drilling in Jefferson in the past, but with the slowdown over the past few years, not much has happened. But according to Ascent Resources and Chesapeake Energy, their respective companies are putting a renewed focus on the county in the coming months. Which is good news indeed. Couple that with a possible ethane cracker plant coming to Belmont County, and (according to the Chamber of Commerce), Jefferson is heading for “a brighter future” thanks to the Utica industry…Continue reading

Platts: M-U Drillers Need to Double Rigs to Fill Pipelines in ’17

Platts senior energy analyst Luke Jackson yesterday posted a Platts Snapshot titled, “New Northeast US Gas Pipelines Will be Hard to Fill.” Provocative title. It’s a video. Below is a transcript of the video. In it, Jackson says according to their analysis that drillers in southwestern PA and eastern OH and the northern panhandle of WV will struggle, but eventually succeed, in producing enough natural gas to fill new pipelines coming online this year. But they won’t be able to fulfill their obligations until perhaps December 2017. That is, Antero, Range Resources and Ascent Resources will need to rapidly ramp up drilling–or risk paying for pipeline capacity they’re not using. However, it was Jackson’s comment about pipelines coming online in 2018 and 2019 that really caught our attention. He says in the video: “This new capacity will be nearly impossible to fill, barring a massive ramp in drilling activity, which, per our forecast, is not expected to occur.” So Platts says Marcellus/Utica drillers will not be able to produce enough natural gas to fill all of the new pipelines that will be online by 2019. If we assume the price of natgas goes higher over the next few years (not an unreasonable assumption), what this means is that new drilling is going to ramp up like crazy in the next few years. Buckle up! Here’s the transcript…
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