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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Trend: Marcellus/Utica Drillers Will Drill Less in 2019

There’s just no getting around the obvious–that the shale industry is once again heading into something of a dip. We’re not just talking about shale oil drillers scaling back drilling new wells in places like Texas and North Dakota. We’re talking about big gas drillers in the Marcellus/Utica who are signaling that 2019 will see less spending and less drilling, although production won’t decline.
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Gulfport’s Largest Investor Not Happy with Board or Management

Another situation is brewing with Gulfport Energy not unlike the situation at EQT. One of (we’re pretty sure THE) largest shareholders in Gulfport, investment firm Firefly Value Partners, is not happy with either the board of directors or current management, saying very publicly (via a letter, below) that the current board lacks “necessary skills and experience” to turn the company’s poorly performing stock around. Ba boom!
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Utica Driller Gulfport Energy Appoints New CEO/President

In early November, 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, canned their CEO Michael Moore following allegations that he used a company credit card, and the company chartered jet, for personal uses (see Shakeup: Gulfport CEO Michael Moore Fired, Interim CEO Appointed). Gulfport appointed COO Donnie Moore (no relation to Michael) to be interim CEO while they figured out next steps. Those steps are now figured out. After a nationwide search, Gulfport has appointed David M. Wood to become the new president & CEO. Donnie Moore will revert to his role of COO, answering to Wood.
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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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Gulfport 3Q18 Operations Update: 11 New Utica Wells

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 third quarter operational (not financial) update yesterday. Gulfport is one of those companies that delivers its operational news first, and a few weeks later issues its financial news. Gulfport reports production continued to climb to new highs, averaging 1,427.5 million cubic feet equivalent (MMcfe) per day, a 7% increase over 2Q18 and 19% increase over 3Q17. Said another way, 1.43 Bcf/d.
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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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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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Gulfport Energy 2Q18: 970 MMcfe/d in Utica; Drilled 9 Ohio Wells

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 second quarter update yesterday. The company made $111 million in profit (net income) in 2Q18, vs. making $106 million in 2Q17. They produced an average of 1.33 billion cubic feet equivalent per day (Bcfe/d) across all of the plays where they are active. Of that, the vast majority of production (73%) came from the Ohio Utica Shale, which was 970 million cubic feet equivalent per day (MMcfe/d). During Q2, Gulfport drilled nine Utica wells, giving it a total of 21 Utica wells drilled so far this year (out of 35 planned for 2018). They operate two rigs in the OH Utica currently. Here’s the complete update from Gulfport…
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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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Gulfport Energy 1Q18: “We Love SCOOP” but Spends 70% on Utica

In April Gulfport Energy released an initial look at the company’s first quarter operations (see Gulfport 1Q18 Update: Utica Production Up 37%, SCOOP Up 198%). The April operational update did not include financial performance. Gulfport is 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. Yesterday Gulfport dropped the other shoe–the financial report for 1Q18. The company reported $90 million of net income for 1Q18 vs. $154 million in 1Q17–a 42% drop. Much of the update focused on Gulfport’s activity in the Oklahoma SCOOP, which seems to have turned Gulfport’s head. However, there is continued strong activity in the Ohio Utica. Gulfport reports drilling 13 wells in the Utica in 1Q18 with an average lateral length of 9,000 feet (11% longer than 2017’s laterals). They averaged just over 1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of production in the Utica. And Gulfport CEO Michael Moore said on an analyst conference call, in response to a question, that the company is still spending 70% of its capital budget on Utica drilling in 2018…
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EQT Midstream Consolidates, Buys Gulfport JV Share for $175M

As EQT gets ready to split the company into two companies later this year, the midstream (pipeline & processing plants) portion of the company yesterday announced a complicated “drop down” deal to streamline the midstream operation. The short version is this: EQT has midstream assets spread throughout three companies on paper–EQT Midstream Partners, EQT GP Holdings, and Rice Midstream Partners. Yesterday the company announced all three are being merged under one umbrella–EQT Midstream Partners. As you’ll read in the EQT announcement, the entire deal is complex–with various entities buying assets from the others. One of the more interesting aspects of the deal is that EQT Midstream is buying EQT’s (the driller’s) Olympus Gathering System and EQT’s 75% interest in the Strike Force Gathering System. EQT Midstream is also buying out Gulfport Energy’s 25% interest in Strike Force, meaning EQT Midstream will now own 100% of Strike Force–a gathering pipeline system in the dry gas Utica covering 98,000 acres in Belmont and Monroe counties, in Ohio. Here’s the news that EQT is getting its midstream ducks in a row…
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Gulfport 1Q18 Update: Utica Production Up 37%, SCOOP Up 198%

Yesterday Gulfport Energy released an initial look at the company’s first quarter operations (full copy below). The update does not include financial performance–only operational performance. Gulfport is 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. Gulfport also owns acreage along the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Our primary interest is in Gulfport is their Ohio Utica Shale program. In 1Q18, when you role everything together (methane, NGLs and oil) converting it all to natural gas “equivalent,” Gulfport produced 92,772 million cubic feet equivalent (MMcfe), versus producing 67,559 MMcfe in 1Q17–a 37% increase year over year. However, what you can’t ignore in this update is that Gulfport has really turned up the activity in the Oklahoma SCOOP. In 1Q18 Gulfport brought online 3 Utica wells, but 7 SCOOP wells. In 1Q18 Gulfport produced 22,103 MMcfe in the SCOOP, versus producing just 7,398 MMcfe in the SCOOP a year ago in 1Q17–a 198% increase. The conclusion is inescapable: the SCOOP is ascending for Gulfport, occupying the company’s time, attention and money…
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Gulfport Energy: Utica Provides “Reliable, Repeatable Growth”

Gulfport Energy is among a number of companies we’re highlighting today that, earlier this week, delivered their 4Q17/full 2017 update. Gulfport is 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. Gulfport also owns acreage along the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Although Gulfport drills (we’d call it “dabbles”) elsewhere, make no mistake–the Utica Shale is the company’s main focus. During 2017, Gulfport spud (drilled or began to drill) 94 Utica wells. Gulfport turned-to-sales 68 Utica wells in 2017. The Utica wells drilled last year had an average lateral length of approximately 8,150 feet. It took Gulfport an average of 19.2 days to drill a well, a decrease of 16% over the time it took to drill wells in 2016. Gulfport currently runs three drilling rigs in the Ohio Utica, with plans to decrease that number down to two in March, when the contract expires for one of the rigs. So what about 2018? As you can imagine, running one less rig means drilling less wells in 2018. Gulfport is budgeted to drill 36 to 40 Utica wells with an average lateral length of 11,200 feet this year. They plan to turn-to-sales 33 to 37 wells with an average lateral length of 8,000 feet. Gulfport made a profit of $435.2 million last year, versus losing $979.7 million in 2016 (a $1.5 billion swing into the black). According to CEO Michael Moore, “Our Utica asset provided reliable, repeatable growth throughout the year.” Here’s the full reliable, repeatable Gulfport update…
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Clash of the Titans: PA Marcellus Gas Competes with TX Permian

Last week MDN editor Jim Willis attended Hart Energy’s Marcellus-Utica Midstream conference in Pittsburgh (a series of stories are coming this week from that event). One of the stray comments Jim heard at the event was this: The chief rival or competitor to the Marcellus with respect to natural gas production is not, as you might assume (we sure did) the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana. No. The chief competitor, producing more and more volumes of natgas, is…the Permian! That’s right, an oil play! Why? When you drill for oil, you get other hydrocarbons out of the ground along with the oil. Primarily methane, or natural gas. It’s called “associated gas.” Even though most of what comes out of a Permian well is oil and not gas, because there are so darned many oil wells in the Permian (with more being drilled all the time), the total volume of gas coming from the Permian is going up, dramatically. The problem is, some Marcellus/Utica gas heads to the Gulf Coast to be used by petrochemical companies or to be exported. However, gas produced right there in the region is less expensive to get to market (shorter distance), so that Permian-sourced gas is competing, and increasingly crowding out, Marcellus/Utica gas. Investors have noticed and have, in a sense, “punished” some of the biggest of the big Marcellus/Utica producers by selling their shares, leading to a loss in share value. Among the hardest hit have been Southwestern Energy, Gulfport Energy, and Range Resources. The stock price for those three companies is down, since Jan. 1st, 33%, 30% and 25% respectively. A Bloomberg article says the stocks for those companies have been “mauled.” Indeed. Here’s some insight into how the Marcellus/Utica is increasingly going up against the oil giant Permian Basin, sometimes getting mauled…
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