New Strategy: CNX Blends Marcellus/Utica Gas, Eliminates Processing

Another interesting story coming from this week’s DUG East Conference in Pittsburgh. CNX Resources (formerly CONSOL Energy), is beginning to use a new strategy of mixing together the natural gas produced from two different rock layers–the Marcellus and Utica. Why do that? The “gas” CNX gets from their Marcellus wells is “damp”–which is a new term for us. Everyone else would call it “wet”–as in there are extra hydrocarbons in the gas, like ethane, propane, butane, etc. In other words, NGLs (natural gas liquids). Interestingly, the Utica wells CNX is drilling in southwestern PA are “dry”–meaning relatively little if any NGLs coming out of the ground along with the methane. By mixing the two together, damp and dry, CNX dilutes the mixture enough that it’s pipeline ready and goes directly to market. That is, the gas doesn’t have to be transported via pipeline (which costs money) to a gas processing plant to remove the extra hydrocarbons (which costs more money). Typically if you can get a good price for those other hydrocarbons, it’s worth the extra transportation and processing costs. But with NGL prices low, and with few markets for ethane (the primary NGL extracted) right now, other than exporting it out of the area, CNX’s “blending” strategy lowers their costs and gets the gas to market quicker. Here’s the beauty of it: CNX can drill both Marcellus and Utica wells on the very same pad, and blend the gas together right at the pad. Less cost and faster to market sounds like a good strategy to us…
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CNX Signs Deal with Evolution to Use 100% Electric Fracking Fleet

CNX Resources announced Tuesday that the company has signed a long-term contract with Evolution Well Services to use Evolution’s 100% natural gas-fueled electric pressure pumping equipment. That is, CNX will use electric fracking equipment, with the electricity generated by burning natural gas (instead of diesel). According to Evolution, their “next generation” equipment saves drillers “up to 95 percent on fuel costs.” Whoa! If that claim is true (we have no reason to disbelieve it), it certainly changes the economics of fracking. Using natgas to generate the electricity, instead of diesel, also has the benefit of cleaner air. And here’s the coolest part: The natural gas used to power the electric generator comes from other other CNX wells in the area, i.e. “field gas.” Look ma, no more endless truck deliveries of diesel fuel! Here’s the exciting news that CNX is a “first-mover” on this new technology…
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Westmoreland Co. Pays Big Bucks for Reservoir Testing 8 Yrs Later

In 2011, the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, PA began a new water testing and monitoring program for the Beaver Run Reservoir which supplies water to about 150,000 residents (see Westmoreland County, PA Municipal Authority Initiates New Water Testing for Reservoir Located Near Marcellus Drilling). CONSOL Energy (now CNX Resources) had 100 shallow gas wells on municipal property near the Reservoir, and at the time had started to drill Marcellus Shale wells. The Authority also leased land near the reservoir to Dominion Resources, which ended up drilling more than a dozen shale wells on the property. The water testing program was precautionary, to ensure water is not being affected by nearby drilling activity. The Municipal Authority contracted with Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) to do the monitoring and testing. The early results showed no impact from testing (see Water Tests at PA Reservoir Show No Affects from Gas Drilling). Over the years, the Authority continued to award contracts year after year to IUP–starting at $55,000 and going as high as $100,000 (see Pricetag to Test Water at Reservoir Near CONSOL Drilling Goes Up). The Authority renewed their contract with IUP in 2016 for $85,000 (see Beaver Run Reservoir Tests Since 2011 Show No Harm from Drilling). And they’ve just done it again, paying IUP $99,000 to test water quality, and another for $24,700 to test the air at the reservoir. Our point: Since the first tests began more than eight years ago, there have been a number of shale wells drilled on the property next to the reservoir–and there has been NO negative impacts from shale drilling in all that time…
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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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The Different Ways Range and CNX Dealt with ME1 Pipeline Outage

Now that the Mariner East 1 (ME1) NGL (natural gas liquid) pipeline is back up and running, Marcellus/Utica producers are breathing a sigh of relief–at least, Range Resources, the primary customer for the pipeline, is. Following sinkholes that developed while Sunoco Logistics Partners was drilling for the Mariner East 2 (ME2) project, a portion of ME1 was exposed to open air in Chester County, PA, which prompted the state Public Utility Commission to shut down ME1 in early March (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). Range sends 20,000 barrels a day of ethane and propane through ME1. The closure sent them scrambling for alternatives (see Range, CNX Look for Alternatives to ME1 Pipe Following Shutdown). CNX Resources is also a customer using ME1, but much less so than Range. It took two months, but the PUC finally allowed ME1 to restart last week (see Sunoco’s ME1 Pipe Restarts, ME2 Pipe Pays Another $355K in Fines). Range and CNX coped with the ME1 closure in very different ways…
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CNX Resources 1Q18: Record High Production as Utica Skyrockets

Yesterday CNX Resources, formerly CONSOL Energy, released its first quarter 2018 update–its first full 3-month update since separating from the coal company. CONSOL began life as a coal company 150 years ago and only in recent decades entered the oil and gas business. The company split itself into coal and oil/gas back in November (see CONSOL Energy Split Done – Meet “New” Gas Driller CNX Resources). So 1Q18 is the first full quarter as a standalone o&g company for CNX. And what a quarter it was! Production of everything–gas, NGLs and oil, called “equivalent” was 129.5 billion cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe) in 1Q18, which works out to be 1.4 Bcfe per day–an increase of 36% over 1Q17. Production from Marcellus wells (gas and liquids), which is the majority of CNX’s wells, was up 14%. However, production from CNX’s Utica wells was up a huge 184% over 1Q17. Utica volumes (43.5 Bcfe in 1Q18) are rapidly catching up to Marcellus volumes (65.9 Bcfe in 1Q18). Here’s the latest from CNX…
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CNX Claims “Biggest, Baddest Sandbox in the Appalachian Region”

On Tuesday CNX Resources (formerly CONSOL Energy) held an investors day in Pittsburgh to disclose the company’s strategy for the next few years. CNX is one of the big players in the Marcellus/Utica. The company owns 531,000 net Marcellus acres and 652,000 net Utica acres, with some/much of that acreage the same (the Utica layer sits under the Marcellus layer). The company has only developed about 6% of its acreage so far. Not even on first base! CNX CEO Nicholas “Nick” DeIuliis had some big boasts at Tuesday’s event. DeIuliis said CNX’s stacked pay (layer over layer) acreage gives it a leg up and makes the company “a disruptor” in the region. He also said this, with respect to the company’s acreage position: “We’ve got the biggest, baddest sandbox in the Appalachian region.” Indeed! Below is a summary of the event, along with the PowerPoint presentation used at the event (loaded with great information)…
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Range, CNX Look for Alternatives to ME1 Pipe Following Shutdown

MDN reported yesterday that due to underground horizontal direction drilling (HDD) in Chester County, PA (near Philadelphia) for the Mariner East 2 (ME2) Pipeline project, a third sinkhole had developed (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). ME2 is being built close to the existing Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline. The sinkhole exposed a portion of the ME1 pipeline to the open air. Not a good situation, which is why the state Public Utility Commission has temporarily shut down the propane and ethane flowing through ME1. The shutdown is for 10-14 days. Problem is, both Range Resources and CNX Gas pump propane and ethane through ME1. With the shutdown, both companies are “scrambling” to find alternative means to get their NGLs to market…
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Top 3 Most Productive Drillers in the Marcellus Shale

We spotted an intriguing story that summarizes some of the information found in a newly-released report from private equity firm Baird Equity Research. Baird’s report purports to show, using data, “the most productive operators in the Marcellus shale.” What is the criteria used? They use productivity per average well along with how much money the average well is generating for the operator (i.e. driller). We wish we had a copy of the full report. Sadly, we do not. However, we do have the article summarizing it, which shares the top three operators. The top operator stands head and shoulders above the rest. Would it surprise you to learn the top operator in the Marcellus, according to Baird, is Cabot Oil & Gas? No, it didn’t surprise us. What about the other two in the top three? And what about the top Utica operator? Read on…
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CNX Resources CEO Says Average CNX Worker Makes $170,000 per Year

It looks like CNX Resources (formerly CONSOL Energy) is THE place to work if you live anywhere in the orbit of Pittsburgh. Our eyeballs about fell out when we read comments made by CNX Resources President and CEO Nick DeIuliis in a speech he gave yesterday at the Pittsburgh Business Times’ VisionPittsbugh event. According to PBT reporter Paul Gough, “He [DeIuliis] said the CNX workforce was young, highly skilled and driven, drawn from Baldwin Borough to Nigeria, and making an average of $170,000 a year.” Wow! Where do we sign up? In commenting on Pittsburgh’s ongoing water issues, DeIuliis said “so-called green fixes is absurd.” A man after our own heart. Here’s more of what DeIuliis said yesterday…
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CNX Resources Sells Its Conventional Wells in PA, OH, WV for $85M

We spotted an announcement by Diversified Gas & Oil that they have just cut a deal with two different companies–Alliance Petroleum and CNX Resources–to purchase conventional well assets from both companies for a combined price of $180 million. Alliance, based in Akron, OH, has drilled and maintained conventional oil and gas wells in the Appalachian region since 1985. While that part of the story is of passing interest, the more interesting part (for us) is Diversified’s purchase of CNX’s conventional (non-shale) wells in PA, OH and WV. This deal echos a similar deal done by Cabot Oil & Gas last summer when they sold all of their conventional wells in Appalachia (primarily in WV) to Carbon Natural Gas Company for $21.5 million (see Carbon Natural Gas Buys Cabot’s Conventional Wells in WV-OH-VA). The CNX deal with Diversified is for $85 million. Is this now a bona fide trend–shale companies shedding their portfolio of conventional assets? Perhaps! Below is the Diversified announcement…
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CNX Adds 31 Marcellus/22 Utica Wells, Boosts Reserves 21% in 2017

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CNX Resources (formerly CONSOL Energy) released a 2017 recap yesterday–a high level overview of the company’s accomplishments last year. The main point of the announcement was to point out that proved reserves–the gas and oil and other hydrocarbons the company can extract at today’s prices using today’s technology–went up a healthy 21% in 2017 over 2016. CNX figures they own 7.6 trillion cubic feet equivalent (Tcfe) of natural gas, oil, condensate and NGLs–sitting in the ground under CNX leased acreage. As you dig further into the announcement you find that CNX turned-in-line (TIL) 31 Marcellus wells and 22 Utica wells last year. Laterals (the horizontal part of the well) in the Marcellus averaged 8,400 feet long, and Utica laterals averaged 8,800 feet long. Here’s the 2017 roundup and proved reserve report from CNX…
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CNX Sells WV Gathering System to Former CONE Midstream for $265M

CNX Resources, in addition to issuing an announcement about proved reserves yesterday (see today’s companion story), also issued an announcement about CNX the drilling company selling its Shirley-Pennsboro gathering system in West Virginia to CNX the pipeline company (CNX Midstream) for $265 million. Yes, in a sense it is moving assets around on paper. However, this seemingly innocuous announcement is interesting to MDN for a couple of reasons. First, there is a trend of splitting companies apart–to spin out the pipeline/midstream stuff into its own standalone company, separate from the drilling part of the company. EQT, a major CNX competitor, is going through the process of evaluating whether or not to spin off their pipeline subsidiary into its own company (see EQT Begins Process of Separating Midstream…into New Company?). When we see moves like this from CNX, we wonder if they too are also preparing for such a split. We have no evidence that such a move is in the cards–just idle speculation on our part. However, the fact that CNX is moving pipeline assets into the midstream subsidiary certainly sets up the possibility that the pipeline subsidiary may (one day) become a standalone company. Second, the pipeline subsidiary is called CNX Midstream. That’s a new name. As of early January you would have known it as CONE Midstream. CNX bought out its joint venture partner in CONE (Noble Energy) late last year and now owns all of CONE. CNX renamed CONE as CNX Midstream in early January (see CONE Midstream Gets a New Name: CNX Midstream Partners). We’ve not seen anyone else point out the fact that the former CONE is the buyer of this asset. For those two reasons–the trend of splitting drilling and pipelines into different companies, and the fact that CONE was the buyer–our interest was piqued in CNX’s seemingly innocuous announcement yesterday…
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SWPA Antis Twist State Laws in Bid to Declare Shale Drilling Illegal

In November 2015 MDN reported on a seemingly obscure zoning court case in Westmoreland County, PA (see 3 Western PA Antis Weigh Appeal of Court Ruling in Zoning Case). Three ladies brought a lawsuit against Allegheny Township because the town approved a permit for CNX Gas–to drill a well on a farm owned by John and Anne Slike. Since the farm is about 1,200 feet from where the ladies live, they objected. We thought the case was long over with. But it’s not. As we recently pointed out, the ladies and their radical fractivist lawyer appealed using a novel legal argument (see SWPA Antis Breathe New Life into Old Zoning Lawsuit). Based on recent PA Supreme Court cases that uphold so-called environmental rights for all PA citizens, the ladies and their lawyer claim that allowing Marcellus drilling violates their environmental rights and they will experience mythical harms. The problem with the case is that if they win, it’s not much of a stretch for antis everywhere to claim the same thing–promptly ending the miracle of Marcellus drilling in the Keystone State…
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CNX 4Q17 Results: Drilled 4 New Wells, Completed 19 Wells

CNX Resources, the gas drilling part of what used to be CONSOL Energy (but now is it’s own separate company), issued their fourth quarter 2017 update earlier this week. What a difference a year can make, at least financially! In 4Q16 CNX lost $300 million. In 4Q17 CNX made a $282 million profit. That’s a swing of $582 million–over half a billion dollars. CNX used $103 million of that money to buy back some of the company’s outstanding shares of stock. CNX produced 118.9 billion cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe) of production during 4Q17, which translates to 1.32 Bcfe per day. That’s new record high production for CNX. Production costs fell to $2.17 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf). During most of 4Q17 CNX operated 2 horizontal shale drilling rigs, adding a third rig in late December. The company only drilled four new wells in 4Q17: one dry Utica Shale well in Monroe County, OH; one deep dry Utica Shale well in Greene County, PA; one deep dry Utica Shale well in Indiana County, PA; and one Marcellus Shale well in Greene County, PA. However, they kept the rigs busy by completing 19 wells–DUCs, or Drilled but UnCompleted wells, drilled prior to 4Q17. CNX proved they can walk and chew gum at the same time over the past three months. While they were drilling 4 new wells and completing another 19 wells, during that same time period they (a) split the company in two, separating the gas drilling business from the coal business, (b) bought and closed on Noble’s 50% share of what was CONE Midstream (now CNX Midstream Partners), and (c) bought back $103 million shares of the company’s common stock. Busy beavers! Here’s the full 4Q17 update from CNX Resources…
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