“Strong” Well Results in Northern Utica During 1Q18

As MDN reports in today’s lead story, Ohio has just achieved a new milestone by producing more natural gas than the state has ever produced during the first three months of this year (see Top 25 Producing Gas & Oil Wells in Ohio Utica for 1Q18). The best performing individual wells are located in the southern part of the Utica play–in Belmont, Jefferson, Monroe, and Guernsey counties. However, don’t overlook the wells and overall performance of counties in the northern part of the play–places like Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Particularly Columbiana County. The Youngstown Business Journal does a deep dive into the numbers for the northern tier counties and finds that wells drilled by Hilcorp in Columbiana produced “strong results” in 1Q18. Here’s a closer look at the northern Utica counties and the drillers who work there…
Continue reading

Hilcorp’s Billionaire Founder Steps Down from CEO Role

Jeff Hildebrand

Hilcorp is a major driller founded in 1989 by Jeff Hildebrand. It is one of the largest privately-held (stock not publicly traded) oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the U.S. Hilcorp is the largest oil producer in Louisiana. Headquartered in Houston, TX, Hilcorp has over 1,825 employees in multiple operating areas including the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Alaska, and (yes) in the Marcellus/Utica. While they don’t have a huge presence here in the northeast, Hilcorp does actively drill shale wells in Lawrence County, PA and Columbiana County, OH. In fact, of the 58 operating shale wells in Lawrence County, Hilcorp owns all but 10 of them (see Lawrence County, PA O&G Production “Inching Upward Again”). Hilcorp has, until now, been captained by its founder Jeff Hildebrand, called an “oil baron” by Bloomberg back in 2015 when Hildebrand, among other big oil guys, backed a loser in the presidential campaign–Jeb Bush (see Big Oil & Gas Money Flows to Jeb Bush Campaign, Disappointingly). Hildebrand, the 209th richest person in the world, has just stepped down as CEO of Hilcorp. The new CEO is Greg Lalicker–a petroleum engineer who joined the company in 2006. But don’t worry. Hildebrand will continue on as executive chairman of the company and remain “heavily involved”…
Continue reading

Flaring Marcellus Wells in SWPA Light Up Night Sky, 911 Called

Residents in western Lawrence County, PA had a bit of a scare when they noticed a red glow in the sky Saturday night. They took to social media to speculate what it might be. Some called 911 to report what may be a big fire. Turns out it was flaring from a couple of Hilcorp Energy Marcellus Shale wells. The wells are already drilled and producing, so why did they flare? Flaring–or burning of natural gas at the wellhead, is a safety precaution to prevent explosions from too much pressure in the well. A Hilcorp rep said what likely happened is that compressors that compress and send the gas down the pipeline sometimes get moisture in them, and with the freezing cold temperatures, that moisture can freeze and lock up the compressors. Instead of gas building up to dangerous pressures because it can’t flow on down the pipe, the automatic flaring mechanism kicked in to burn off some of the gas–creating the red glow in the night sky. It’s good to see technology–especially safety technology–working as designed…
Continue reading

Lawrence County, PA O&G Production “Inching Upward Again”

Lawrence County, located along Pennsylvania’s border with Ohio, is not the first county you think of when discussing Marcellus/Utica drilling in western PA. There have been no permits to drill new shale wells in Lawrence so far this year. However, the county does have 58 operating shale wells–and the amount of gas those wells produce is gradually rising. All but 10 of the wells are owned and operated by Hilcorp. Most of the wells are located in just two townships: Pulaski and Mahoning. Linda Nitch, executive director of economic business development for the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce, believes Hilcorp is pumping more gas from the wells it owns in Lawrence. She’s hearing from some landowners that their royalty checks are “getting a little bigger”…
Continue reading

Hilcorp Files for Permits to Drill 3 Wells in Columbiana County, OH

Hilcorp has woken up and come alive in the Ohio Utica Shale–for the first time this year. The company recently filed for permits to drill three new Utica wells in Columbiana County. Which is interesting. Hilcorp zigs when everyone zags. Most drilling in the Ohio Utica currently happens in southeastern Ohio–in counties like Belmont, Monroe and Guernsey. When the play first became active for shale drilling, much of the early action happened in Carroll County, and Columbiana. But lately (over the past 2-3 years) most drilling moved south. But Hilcorp, with acreage in the northern Utica in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, continues to make money staying north. In fact, Hilcorp has been called the “dominant active prospector” in the northern tier area of the Utica Shale–an area including Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties in OH and Lawrence and Mercer counties in PA. Hilcorp is strong and steady. They make money when they drill. So we take this as a good sign that drilling is heating up in the northern Utica…Continue reading

DEP Says Fracking at PA Utica Wells “Likely” Caused Earthquakes

On Friday, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection held a hastily-called webinar to discuss findings that, frankly, aren’t all that newsworthy or surprising. After 10 months of study, the DEP has concluded that zipper fracking activities by Hilcorp in Lawrence County, PA “likely” caused a series of earthquakes in April 2016 so minor that nobody could feel them. And the DEP concluded this after 10 months of study, when a week before the DEP itself issued the permits to drill in Lawrence County, Hilcorp drilling was shut down about seven miles away, across the border in Mahoning County, Ohio, for potentially causing low-level earthquakes there (see Hilcorp Awarded Permits to Drill 7 New Wells Near Earthquake Zone). It wasn’t exactly rocket science to connect the dots and speculate that fracking over top an active fault had caused the low-level earthquakes on the PA side of the border, as it had on the OH side of the border. As we’ve stressed multiple times here on MDN, earthquakes related to shale are almost always connected with injection wells–when large amounts of liquid are injected near a fault. Earthquakes from fracking activities are rare–like under 10 times, ever, out of millions of fracked wells. Statistically zero. Still, let’s not let a good “crisis” go to waste. The DEP, in releasing a report about the incident (full copy below), said they will work up new regulations to detect and prevent such statistically zero occurrences from happening again…
Continue reading

DEP Concludes Hilcorp Drilling Caused Minor Earthquakes in W PA

In April of last year (2016), MDN brought you the story of earthquakes so minor nobody could feel them in Lawrence County, PA were likely caused by fracking (see PA DEP Investigates Hilcorp Fracking in Earthquake Nobody Felt). However, seismic monitoring equipment could detect them. We have to stress that earthquakes caused by fracking is rare–like this is one of five instances we’re aware of. Far more common are earthquakes caused by deep injection wells. But fracking itself? Statistically zero percent of the time earthquakes are caused by fracking. So when it happens, it’s noteworthy. The conditions must be just right–fracking immediately overtop a fault in the rock layers. The driller in this case, Hilcorp, was ordered to stop all fracking and drilling activity at the well site, which they did. The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) says they have concluded their investigation and will today (on a webinar) disclose their results. Here’s the kicker: the DEP could have avoided this. Two years earlier the same driller, Hilcorp, caused minor earthquakes seven miles away–just across the border in Ohio. At that time Ohio officials stopped Hilcorp from drilling in that region. A week after the Ohio earthquakes that stopped Hilcorp, the PA DEP issued permits to drill in the same area (see Hilcorp Awarded Permits to Drill 7 New Wells Near Earthquake Zone). MDN was the only source to make that observation. We waved our little red flag and said maybe it’s not such a wise decision to grant those permits. Someone at the DEP needs to read MDN! At any rate, below is the news, as much of it as we currently know. By the time you read this, the DEP earthquake webinar will be over, but we’ve included the webinar notice as (so far) it’s the only information we have to indicate the DEP now concludes Hilcorp drilling was at fault for the earthquakes in Lawrence County…
Continue reading

Top 20 Marcellus Drillers in Southwest Pennsylvania

The sharp folks over at the Pittsburgh Business Times have been looking through data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and have compiled a list of 20 drillers who have at least a dozen shale wells in the southwest PA region. And they ranked them from lowest to highest. We’ve grabbed the list below. The interesting thing for MDN is that there is one name in the list not familiar to us, and we’ve been watching this space since 2009. Always fun to learn something new. Here’s the list of southwest PA’s “Top 20” Marcellus drillers…
Continue reading

Hilcorp Bringing its Magic to Columbiana County, OH – 11 Permits

hilcorp logoIn December MDN wrote that Hilcorp Energy is making some magic happen in Lawrence County, PA–in the northern Utica Shale region (see Hilcorp is to Northern Utica as Cabot is to Eastern Marcellus). At the time we noted, “Lawrence County, PA produces almost as much natural gas as the far-more-drilled Columbiana County (OH). And it’s nearly all Hilcorp gas in Lawrence County.” Good news for Columbiana County: Hilcorp recently filed for permits to drill 11 new wells in your county. Looks like Hilcorp wants to bring some of its Utica drilling magic across the border from PA to OH…
Continue reading

PA DEP Investigates Hilcorp Fracking in Earthquake Nobody Felt

earthquake.jpgYou can count on one hand the number of cases where fracking a shale well over top an active underground fault (never a good idea) has caused a detectable earthquake. Can we now add one more case in western PA? Officials from the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection are investigating whether or not fracking by Hilcorp in well in Lawrence County, PA caused two 1.9 earthquakes in the area on Monday. Just so you know, you can’t feel a 1.9 earthquake on the surface. The only way you know of such an earthquake is through special monitors maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). A football stadium full of fans stomping their feet at the same time can (and has) caused earthquakes greater than 1.0 (see ODNR Temporarily Shuts Down Injection Wells After Low-Level Quake). You don’t even feel earthquakes on the surface until they hit around magnitude 4.0 and above. Still, with so little drilling happening in the state these days, chasing fracking earthquakes gives DEP investigators something to do, we suppose…
Continue reading

Hilcorp Forms $1.24B JV with Carlyle to Shop for Shale Deals

Smart. Everyone knows the best time to buy something, whether it’s stocks, real estate, fuel oil, whatever–is when the market is crashing and burning. Always buy in a “down” market and sell in an “up” market. Natural gas and oil selling at current historic lows qualifies as a down market. It’s about as down as it gets! So it figures those companies who have kept their debt levels low and managed themselves well are now in the catbird seat and can go shopping for bargain basement deals–while their competitors sit on the sidelines hoping to stay out of bankruptcy court. Marcellus/Utica driller Hilcorp is one of those well managed/smart companies. Hilcorp has just joined forces with energy investment firm Carlyle in a partnership to go shopping for deals…
Continue reading

Hilcorp is to Northern Utica as Cabot is to Eastern Marcellus

We’re always fascinated how some companies, like Cabot Oil & Gas, make money even in the lowest of low price environments with their Marcellus wells in Susquehanna County, PA (northeastern part of the state), while another driller right down the road, like WPX Energy, can’t make money and end up selling all of their wells and leases. What does Cabot do right that WPX doesn’t do? That’s the gajillion dollar question. We’ve observed a similar situation in the Utica Shale region of western PA/eastern OH. Hilcorp Energy is drilling Utica wells in Lawrence County, PA. In fact, Hilcorp is the “dominant active prospector” in the northern tier area of the Utica Shale–an area including Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties in OH and Lawrence and Mercer counties in PA. Hilcorp is strong and steady–and they’re making money. They’re also producing gas–lots of it. Lawrence County, PA produces almost as much natural gas as the far-more-drilled Columbiana County (OH). And it’s nearly all Hilcorp gas in Lawrence County. So if Hilcorp is like the Cabot of the Utica, who’s the WPX of the Utica? That would be Halcon Resources, with 140,000 acres in the northern Utica. Back in 2013 Halcon CEO Floyd Wilson famously said he wouldn’t drill any more “crappy” wells in the Utica (see Halcon CEO Says No More S***** Wells in Northern OH Utica). Halcon is desperately trying to stay afloat, Hilcorp is flourishing. Here’s more about Hilcorp and their success in the northern Utica…
Continue reading

No Downturn Here: Hilcorp Gives $100K Bonus to Every Employee

hilcorp logoHilcorp Energy, owned by billionaire Jeffery Hildebrand and founded in 1989, is one of the largest privately-held oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the United States. Hilcorp is the largest oil producer in Louisiana. The company operates along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, in Alaska and in the Marcellus/Utica Shale–in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Hilcorp is an important driller in our neck of the woods. The company is headquartered in Houston, TX and employs over 1,350 employees. Since the company is privately held and no one really knows much about its ownership, most people believe Hildebrand keeps all of the company’s stock for himself. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t reward his employees. During one of the worst downturns in the industry in a generation (2015), Hildebrand is handing out a $100,000 bonus to each employee this Christmas. Talk about generous! Holy smokes. No wonder Hildebrand’s employees are some of the most loyal and hardworking in the business…
Continue reading

Williams Joins Columbia & Hilcorp in Pennant Midstream JV

joint ventureIt’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about Pennant Midstream, a joint venture between Columbia Pipeline Group and Hilcorp’s midstream subsidiary Harvest Pipeline Company with assets located mostly in the Mahoning Valley area of Ohio. Columbia, the lead jv partner, announced today that Williams (currently being bought out by Energy Transfer Equity) will become the third partner in the jv. Williams will have an initial 5% ownership share, although it’s not clear to us how much they’ve initially invested for that 5%. However, should Williams want to pony up cash for expansions to the system, they can achieve a full one-third ownership in time. Here’s the announcement with the details Columbia has decided to share…
Continue reading

Hilcorp Asks Permission to Drill 25 Feet from Unleased Landowner

public hearingIvan and Kathy Dubrasky are anti-drillers located in Pulaski Township (Lawrence County), PA, just across the border from Ohio and close to Youngstown. They recently hosted a tiny anti-drilling rally at their property (see Tiny Protest (in PA) Claims to be Part of “Hands Across Our Land”). Although all of their neighbors signed leases with Hilcorp, the Dubrasky’s, as is their right, stubbornly refused to do so. They’ve screwed themselves out of money they could have had. Hilcorp is drilling multiple wells from a pad right across the street from the Dubraskys. Hilcorp would like to sink one of those wells about 25 feet from the edge of the Dubrasky property line. State law says a gas well must be at least 330 feet away from an unleased property line. If a well is any closer, inevitably some of the gas from under the unleased property will seep into the fracked well–no matter how careful you are. Hilcorp says they won’t perforate the pipe/well along their property line, so no Dubrasky gas will seep out. A hearing will be held on Sept. 16 to consider Hilcorp’s request–a request likely to be granted. The hearing should be interesting. No doubt there will be fireworks…
Continue reading

Tiny Protest (in PA) Claims to be Part of “Hands Across Our Land”

Yesterday we told you about the “nationwide” protest that was a bust–held in three locations in Virginia and one in West Virginia by less than a cumulative 100 people (see Anti-Pipeline “Hands Across Our Land” Protest in VA & WV a Bust). The protest was supposedly against two natural gas pipelines planned to run from West Virginia through Virginia and for one of the pipelines, into North Carolina. We spotted one more protest that claims to have been part of the Hands Across Our Land “movement”–a protest at a well pad site in Pennsylvania. Of course the PA gathering had nothing to do with being against pipelines, the supposed reason for the protest in the first place. This particular group of protesters slipped across the border from Ohio (an anti-drilling group called Frackfree Mahoning Valley) to show their “solidarity” with a family who didn’t want a drill pad operating near their property. Once again it illustrates that whether they claim to be “against” fracking/drilling, or “against” a pipeline–it’s really neither. These protesters are “against” fossil fuels, period. That’s what motivates them–an irrational hatred of fossil fuels…
Continue reading