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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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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Chesapeake Settles NEPA Royalty Lawsuit for Pennies on the Dollar

Chesapeake Energy has, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “reached a $7.75 million settlement agreement with about two-thirds of its Pennsylvania natural gas royalty owners.” At the end of last year Chesapeake Energy offered a $30 million deal to Pennsylvania landowners to settle claims the company had screwed them out of royalty money by artificially inflating post-production costs in an elaborate scheme to pocket more money at landowners’ expense (see Chesapeake Agrees to $30M Royalty Settlement for PA Landowners). Chesapeake’s proposed deal last year would have given the average PA leaseholder (some 14,000 of them) a one-time $2,140 payment–adjusted up or down for the size of their acreage. This new deal, for 10,000 of the same leaseholders, offers $7.75 million–an average of $775 per landowner. Which is piddly. It’s nothing. An insult. Last year Chesapeake’s deal with leaseholders required the state Attorney General’s office, which has an ongoing, separate lawsuit filed against Chesapeake over the same issue, to settle as well. The AG’s office refused (see PA AG Not Backing Down re Chesapeake Energy Royalty Lawsuit). In fact, the AG’s office is still refusing to settle, with this new deal. Yet now Chesapeake is willing to move forward without the AG as part of the settlement. Heck yeah! Convince these desperate folks to take, literally, pennies on the dollar. What company wouldn’t go for that deal? Any way you slice this, northeast PA landowners are getting screwed if they agree to Chesapeake’s deal. They get a maximum of 8% back of the inflated “costs” Chesapeake originally deducted from royalty checks. We suppose some will say 8% now is better than maybe nothing or very little years from now. We don’t see it. We see these good landowners getting shafted in this deal…
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Chesapeake Energy 2Q18: $2B Utica Deal Last Major Asset Sale

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Chesapeake Energy released its second quarter 2018 update yesterday, and hosted a conference call with investor/analysts. Some of the big talk revolved around Chessy’s recent announcement it is selling its Ohio Utica assets for $2 billion (see Stop Press: Chesapeake Sells ALL of its Ohio Utica Assets for $2B). While that announcement last week caused Chesapeake’s stock price to pop up, yesterday’s announcement that the company lost $40 million in 2Q18 caused stock prices to go back down. CEO Doug Lawler put a good spin on the news, and indeed there is reason to be optimistic. The company is moving in the direction of profitability. Lawler said the $2B sale of Ohio Utica assets will be used to pare down the company’s $9+ billion debt. He also said the Utica sale is the last major asset the company will sell in its bid to reduce outstanding debt. So what will they do to further reduce the company’s high debt? Lawler said, “Going forward, organic production growth, exploration, strategic acquisitions and portfolio management” will get the job done. As we’ve previously noted, Chesapeake is in the midst of converting itself from primarily a gas-drilling company to primarily an oil-drilling company. Doug is betting the ranch on oil. Below is an overview of yesterday’s update, a copy of the full update, and some excerpts of interest from the conference call…
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Chesapeake’s $2B Exit from Ohio Utica “Is a Good Thing”

Last week MDN shared the blockbuster news that Chesapeake Energy is exiting the Ohio Utica, selling all of its Ohio assets for $2 billion (see Stop Press: Chesapeake Sells ALL of its Ohio Utica Assets for $2B). The buyer is Encino Acquisition Partners, a joint venture between Encino Energy and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. At the time we speculated this may be good news for Ohio’s landowners signed with Chesapeake–that perhaps landowners now stand a better chance of seeing new drilling. That was just speculation/hope on our part. Looks like we’re not the only ones thinking that way. A couple of industry experts are saying the same thing. One of them said Chesapeake’s sale and exit “is a good thing” because it means Encino will sink money into new drilling programs in a way that Chesapeake, larded up with debt, could not…
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Stop Press: Chesapeake Sells ALL of its Ohio Utica Assets for $2B

In what is perhaps the second biggest thing to hit Ohio since maybe the plow (the first being the Utica Shale, borrowing a phrase from Aubrey McClendon), Chesapeake Energy announced yesterday it is selling ALL of its 933,000 Ohio acres (including 320,000 net Utica acres) and 920 operated and non-operated Ohio Utica wells to Encino Acquisition Partners for $2 billion. This is truly big news! Encino Energy is a young company, founded in 2011, headquartered in Houston, TX. Last year Encino formed a partnership with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to form Encino Acquisition Partners. It is the Encino subsidiary that is buying Chessy’s Ohio Utica assets. The burning question is, Will Encino drill more wells? Or just sit on its new acquisition? Based on how they describe themselves, we think Encino is going to pursue an active drilling program in the Ohio Utica. According to their own boilerplate, the company’s mission is to, “focus on driving long-term investor returns by acquiring and developing high-quality assets with an established base of production and a large, low-cost development inventory across the lower 48 states of the United States.” They’ve certainly acquired a high-quality asset with an established base of production and it has a large, low-cost development inventory. All the boxes are checked in buying Chesapeake’s Utica assets. So we’ll hold Encino to their word that they will “develop” it–meaning drill new wells. Chesapeake plans to use the $2 billion to pay down some of their ginormous debt…
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OH Landowners with Early Utica Leases Still Get Good Royalties

Some 10 years ago in the “early days” of the Ohio Utica Shale, landowners signed leases not knowing about the Utica and the bonanza it would soon bring. A group of 24 landowners in Columbiana County signed a lease in 2008 with Anshutz–for a few bucks an acre and 12.5% royalties. Seemed like a good deal then. But five years later leases were going for $5,000-$6,000/acre in signing bonuses and 20% royalties. It didn’t seem like such a good deal then. Chesapeake Energy later bought the Anshutz leases. We all know about the shenanigans Chesapeake plays with royalty payments. But these wells produce mainly oil instead of gas. In the early days, a 12.5% royalty, even on properties where post-production deductions “generously” taken, yielded a lot of money. Then the price of oil bottomed out and royalty checks shriveled up. With the price of oil back up, royalty checks, while not as much as they were 4-5 years ago, are still much higher than they were a few years ago. All of which is to say: When the price of oil (or gas) goes up, it covers a multitude of post-production deduction sins. But when the price is down, landowners get the shaft. At least, some landowners. Here’s the story of some of those Ohio landowners who signed early. As we read the story, our impression was this: Yes there’s been some bad (even lawsuits), but there’s been a lot of good too. And in the end, these landowners (like others we’ve spoken to in person at various events), would say if they had to do it all over again, they would. That is, shale drilling is worth it, even with the bad, and the ugly…
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Federal Court Upholds Ohio Forced Pooling Law in Chesapeake Case

In 2015, landowners in Harrison County, OH who own 127 acres (the Kerns) filed a lawsuit alleging their property rights were about to be violated because Chesapeake Energy had filed a pooling request with the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) to pool (combine) the Kerns property with surrounding properties for shale drilling. The Kerns had not signed and do not want drilling under their land. Their neighbors do. Ohio has a law on the books that allows for “forced pooling” in cases when a majority of the surrounding land is leased but landowners with small positions refuse to sign. The Kerns resisted and fought the case all the way to Ohio Supreme Court, which rejected their claims. Chesapeake drilled and fracked three wells (on a neighboring property), which included drilling under the Kerns’ property. So the Kerns filed a new lawsuit in 2016, in federal court, claiming a “taking” of their property had occurred. The federal court has just ruled–against the Kerns. This was the first time a court case dealt directly with the constitutionality of Ohio’s unitization (forced pooling) law. The upshot: Ohio’s forced pooling law remains intact and in force…
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Financial Checkup for Marcellus/Utica Drillers

RBN Energy, headed by founder Rusty Braziel (co-founder of Bentek Energy), is, in our opinion, the premier oil and gas analytics firm out there. Smart people working at RBN. And they offer up some amazing content on their blog site–for free! At least it’s free for a while, then it goes behind a paywall. A few days ago RBN published a blog post on the financial health for the 44 major publicly-traded U.S. exploration and production companies (drillers). RBN groups them into three categories: Oil-Weighted, Diversified, and Gas-Weighted. We found the Gas-Weighted list of 10 companies and the information revealed about them to be fascinating and worth studying. Each of the companies has major operations in the Marcellus/Utica–some of them totally focused on our region. Among the data points shared: revenue, production costs, lifting costs and more. We think of the following as a handy financial health scorecard/checkup for 10 of the biggest drillers in the M-U, including Antero Resources, Cabot Oil & Gas, Chesapeake Energy, CNX Resources, EQT, Gulfport Energy, National Fuel Gas (Seneca Resources), Range Resources, Southwestern Energy, and Ultra Petroleum…
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Average Workers at Top Marcellus Drillers Make $100K+ Salary

The average worker who works for producers (i.e. drillers) in the Pennsylvania Marcellus makes among the highest average salaries of any industry in the state. Looking at six of the state’s top Marcellus drillers, the average worker made $113,610 last year! That’s an average taken from workers at CNX Resources, Range Resources, Chesapeake Energy, Southwestern Energy, EQT and Cabot Oil & Gas. We hasten to add not “all workers” but “average” or “median” workers–meaning there are people who make below that number and people who make well above that number. It also means the majority of Marcellus workers in those companies made at least $100,000 per year. Those working for oilfield services (OFS) companies like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and others didn’t fare quite as well, making an average of $52,000-$80,000 per year. Still, hey, it ain’t bad money! Here’s a look at the average wage for top Marcellus drillers and the OFS companies that serve them…
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Chesapeake Energy 1Q18: M-U Dominates with 45% of Production

Yesterday Chesapeake Energy, now the #2 natural gas producer in the U.S. (after EQT), released its first quarter 2018 financial and operational update. The company reported 1Q18 profits of $268 million, up 257% from the $75 million in profits during 1Q17. The key for increased profits was an increase in production while lowering costs. As we scanned over the numbers, one thing stood out for us: 26% of Chesapeake’s production comes from the Marcellus Shale, and 19% comes from the Utica. Add them together (45%) and no other region comes close. M-U success is Chesapeake’s success. It shows just how key the M-U region is for the mighty Chesapeake. During 1Q18 the company drilled and placed into production 10 wells in the Ohio Utica and 6 wells in the PA Marcellus. 2Q18 plans are to drill and bring online 7 Utica wells and 17 Marcellus wells. However, Chesapeake’s head has been turned. Their primary 2018 focus appears to be the Texas Eagle Ford Shale–an oil play. The company is currently running 5 drilling rigs in the Eagle Ford. They drilled and brought online 23 Eagle Ford wells in 1Q18, with plans to drill and bring online another 50 wells in 2Q18. Chessy has fallen and fallen hard for the siren song of oil. Here’s the latest from the #2 natural-gas producing company in the U.S. that now loves oil…
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