Chesapeake Turns its Back on NatGas in Pursuit of St. Elmo’s Oil

Chesapeake Energy CEO Doug Lawler continues his quest to transform what used to be the nation’s second largest natural gas producer into an oil company. Yesterday the company issued its first quarter 2019 update. From that update we learn that Chessy will pull money out of its Marcellus and Haynesville shale gas drilling programs, dropping from three to two rigs in the Marcellus and from two to one rigs in the Haynesville, in order to put more money, rigs, time and effort into the company’s Powder River Basin oil drilling program. We liken their pursuit of oil riches to trying to grab St. Elmo’s Fire–it appears, and as soon as you reach to grab it, it’s gone.
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Are Marcellus/Utica Shale Drillers Financially Healthy?

We read on a regular basis in mainstream media that shale companies spend more money than they bring in, and that investors are growing tired of pumping money into companies without a return on their investment. We’ve recently noticed a renewed commitment on the part of major drillers to get their financial houses in order–spend less and drill less in order to make more money. We spotted an article by Reuters on the “shale drillers aren’t profitable/healthy” meme which got us investigating the financial health (or lack thereof) for Marcellus/Utica drillers. What we found may interest you.
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PA Commonwealth Court Keeps Chesapeake Royalty Lawsuit Alive

In December 2017, a Bradford County, PA judge turned down Chesapeake Energy’s attempt to wiggle out of a royalty lawsuit on a technicality (see Bradford County, PA Judge Keeps Chesapeake Royalty Lawsuit Alive). However, the judge punted the case to a higher court, Commonwealth Court, to settle what he calls “novel questions of law”–rather than spending more time and money on such issues at the county court level. On Friday Commonwealth Court ruled…
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Encino Says They’ll Do it Better in the Utica than Chesapeake Did

Last Friday MDN reported that Encino Energy CEO Hardy Murchison and COO Ray Walker (formerly of Range Resources) spoke at the Ohio Oil & Gas Association (OOGA) 72nd Annual Meeting in Columbus (see Encino Belle of the Ball at OOGA’s 72nd Annual Meeting). We have two more reports on their talk that mentions things not covered in the first report.
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Chesapeake’s Marcellus Production Dips in 2018, Gas Price Soars

Chesapeake Energy, started by Aubrey McClendon as a gas-focused drilling company that went on to become the country’s largest natgas producer, is doing its darnedest to get rid of its natgas assets and turn itself into an oil driller. Yet it was the company’s natural gas assets that boosted the company’s financial performance in 4Q18, helping them turn in a better financial performance than analysts expected. Ironic, no?
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6th Circuit Court Upholds Ohio’s Forced Pooling Law

Landowners in Ohio who didn’t like being force pooled with their neighbors have, since 2015, tried to get the courts to declare that forced pooling is illegal. They’ve struck out in every court where they’ve tried that argument, including (now) the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
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PA AG Will Continue Chesapeake Royalty Lawsuit in Bradford Co.

PA AG Josh Shapiro

Pennsylvania’s Democrat Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, held a public meeting last night in Towanda (Bradford County), PA to talk about the state’s now three-year-old lawsuit against Chesapeake Energy, a lawsuit alleging the company has shafted landowners out of gas royalty money.
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Fed Court Allows PA Royalty Lawsuit Against Chesapeake to Proceed

Coincidentally on the topic of royalty lawsuits (see today’s companion story, PA AG Will Continue Chesapeake Royalty Lawsuit in Bradford Co.), MDN came across a story (and a lawsuit) we previously had not heard about. An important case brought by landowners in Wyoming County, PA.
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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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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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Chesapeake Now Gone from Ohio Utica; Spends $4B in Eagle Ford

Chesapeake Energy has just blown the minds (and confidence) of investors by plunking down $4 billion in cash and stock to buy WildHorse Resource Development Corp, a driller with big-time assets in the oily Eagle Ford Shale play in Texas. Investors didn’t like the news, punishing the stock by sending it 12% lower. Chesapeake Energy today is definitely not the same company it was even five years ago. Chessy was co-founded by the flamboyant Aubrey McClendon (God rest his soul). Aubrey, a landman by profession, founded the company as a natural gas driller–building it into the largest onshore natural gas-drilling company in the U.S. Today Chessy’s focus on gas is pretty much gone. While they still drill and maintain wells in both the Marcellus (in PA) and Haynesville (in Louisiana), most of the talk in Chessy’s 3Q18 update, which was issued yesterday, was oil, oil, oil.
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By the Numbers – Revenue & Profitability for M-U Drillers

The expert analysts at RBN Energy have just published their “fourth and final” in a series of posts looking in detail at E&Ps (exploration & production companies, or “drillers”). One of the groups of E&Ps they examine are “gas-weighted” E&Ps–or drillers who mostly extract natural gas. In looking through the list, you immediately realize every one of them has operations in the Marcellus and/or Utica Shale region. Yes, a few also have operations in other plays, but they all have at least some operations here. The real value in the article is an accompanying spreadsheet comparing various financial metrics (apples to apples)–things like total revenue, lifting costs, production costs, and “pre-tax income,” meaning profitability. How do our drillers compare with each other?
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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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Chesapeake Energy Gets $3B Line of Credit from 15 Banks

Chesapeake Energy “amended and restated” its “senior secured revolving credit facility” on Wednesday. What does that mean in everyday language? It means the company has talked a bunch of banks into allowing the company to borrow up to $3 billion on a line of credit backed by the value of the company and its assets. That’s some kind of line of credit! The 15 banks doing the loaning were actually willing to pony up $3.8 billion, but Chessy only wants to use up to $3 billion. Aside from a huge line of credit, this news indicates that the banks have confidence that Chesapeake will be an ongoing concern for the foreseeable future. That is, no serious danger of bankruptcy, even though the company still maintains a mountain-high debt load. Below are the banks willing to roll the dice on Chesapeake…
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