COVID Impact on PA Landowners: Low Royalties, Lease Expirations

The Washington & Jefferson College Center for Energy Policy and Management (Washington, PA) is hosting a free webinar series on “Effects of COVID-19 and the Economic Downturn on Western Pennsylvania Shale Gas Development” during June and July. Two of the three sessions have already been held, including a session yesterday that discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on landowners who have leased their land for shale drilling. According to the speaker, there have been two notable effects of the virus for landowners: lower royalties and drillers not renewing leases (allowing leases to expire).
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9 Big M-U Companies Lost $2.6 Billion in Value During 1Q20

A word you will likely see a lot more of in quarterly updates by oil and gas drillers across the country is the word “impairment.” It’s an accounting term that means the value of an asset (leased acreage or wells) is adjusted, down, to reflect a company’s best guess as to how much revenue that asset can generate. We wrote about impairments back in 2015 (see A Basic Guide to Understanding “Impairments” for Marcellus/Utica). Largely because of impairments, nine of the biggest Marcellus/Utica drillers cumulatively lost $2.6 billion in value (on paper) during the first quarter of this year. However, two of the nine had no impairments. And one of the nine made a profit in 1Q20. Can you guess which one?
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Montage Opens Up the Taps – Shut-in Utica Wells Now Back Online

In April, Montage Resources shut-in “low margin production” wells in its liquids-rich producing area. The shut-ins primarily impacted Utica condensate production. In early May during the company’s first-quarter update conference call, CEO John Reinhart said the company had begun to restart some of the shut-in or “curtailed” production (see Montage Res. Drilled 4 Utica Wells in 1Q, Budget Cut Another 10%). Good news. As of June 1, “substantially all” of the shut-in production is now back online.
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M-U Drillers See New Interest from Bond (Debt) Investors

Wow! What a difference three months can make. In January Moody’s Investors Service downgraded EQT Corporation’s bonds to “junk” status (see Moody’s Downgrades EQT Debt to Junk Status Following Write-Down). A few weeks later Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings downgraded the credit rating for six of the biggest Marcellus/Utica drillers, including EQT (see S&P Downgrades Credit Rating for Six Big Marcellus/Utica Drillers). Once thought risky and speculative, investors seem to have changed their minds about investing in M-U debt. They’re taking a second look.
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Montage Resources Trims Another $45M Off 2020 Capex Budget

In February Montage Resources said in 2020 it will increase production approximately 6% over 2019 while slicing its capital expenditure budget by 44%, to $190-$210 million for the year (see Montage Resources 2020 Sneak Preview: More OH Marcellus Drilling). That was BC, before coronavirus. It’s now AD, after (oil price) disaster, and the company has just announced it will decrease capex spending by another $45 million. To be fair, the company does not specifically blame either the coronavirus or the oil price shock for its actions. In a statement, the company says it continues to “monitor market conditions” and adjust accordingly. However, there is a big change in drilling strategy coming…
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Montage New Gathering Pipe Contract, Hedges for 2020/21

Montage Resources, the company that resulted after the merger of Eclipse Resources with Blue Ridge Mountain Resources one year ago, issued an announcement on Monday with two important pieces of news. One is that the company has renegotiated a deal with the company that gathers the natural gas from its wells, merging a bunch of separate agreements into a single new agreement. The implied message is that Montage will save significant money. Second, the company has most of its natural gas production hedged for the balance of 2020, preselling it for $2.63/Mcf. They’ve also hedged some of their 2021 production–at a slightly lower price.
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Montage Resources 2019 in Review, What’s Ahead in 2020

Montage Resources provided an update on fourth-quarter and full-year 2019 performance and what to expect in 2020 last Friday. You may recall Montage is the name of the company that resulted after the merger of Eclipse Resources with Blue Ridge Mountain Resources one year ago (see Blue Ridge Merges with Eclipse, Renamed to Montage Resources). Montage previously announced it will mainly focus on drilling Marcellus wells in Ohio (not a typo!). Perhaps most notable about the company update from Friday is that for three years running (consolidated numbers) the company has turned a profit–the largest profit being in 2019, with $31.8 million. That’s remarkable given the economic pickle drillers are in right now.
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Marcellus/Utica Drillers’ Stock Prices Near/At Historic Lows

The value of a company’s stock price is important, for a variety of reasons. The stock price reflects investor confidence in whether the company can earn its keep and grow profits in the future. A higher stock price wards off takeovers. Upper management gets a raise. And the company can borrow money when it needs to at reasonable interest rates. All sorts of reasons why the stock price is important. Unfortunately for top drillers in the Marcellus/Utica, their stock prices have tanked. As a group, and individually, the stock price is either near or even at the lowest it’s *ever been.* Let that sink in.
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Montage Resources 2020 Sneak Preview: More OH Marcellus Drilling

Montage Resources provided a sneak preview yesterday for what to expect in 2020. You may recall Montage is the name of the company that resulted after the merger of Eclipse Resources with Blue Ridge Mountain Resources 11 months ago (see Blue Ridge Merges with Eclipse, Renamed to Montage Resources). Montage says it will drill 65% of its 2020 wells in the Ohio Marcellus. You read that right–the Marcellus play in Ohio!
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EnCap Keeps $6B Spigot Open to Fund New Shale Drilling

EnCap Investments is a venture capital investor that funds independent companies in the U.S. oil and gas industry. EnCap has its fingers in a number of pies in the Marcellus/Utica. According to a Bloomberg article, EnCap plans to use a pile of $6 billion in cash it’s sitting on to drill new oil and natural gas wells this year. EnCap currently runs 23 drilling rigs at its various portfolio companies. Two of those companies drill in the Marcellus/Utica.
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Montage Resources to Operate Just 1 Rig in 2020

Montage Resources, which formed in a merger of Eclipse Resources and Blue Ridge Mountain Resources (formerly Magnum Hunter Resources) in March of this year, announced in July they would cut back from two to one active drilling rig in the second half of 2019 (see Montage Resources Cuts Drilling Program to 1 Rig in 2nd Half 2019). They did. Last week the company, which is totally focused on the Marcellus/Utica region, issued its third quarter update and announced they will continue to operate just one rig in 2020.
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Another 655 Acres in Ohio Wayne Natl Forest Auctioned for $1.3M

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently announced the winners of Utica Shale mineral rights for 14 parcels of land, adding up to ~655 acres, located in Wayne National Forest (WNF). The 14 properties netted the government $1.326 million and all 14 were purchased by two (possibly more) Utica Shale drillers. Average price per acre paid across the entire lot: $2,024. Who did the leasing? You have to be a subscriber to find out. 🙂
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Montage Resources Cuts Rigs from 2 to 1, Spending $30M Less

Map showing extent of Marcellus Shale in Ohio (click for larger version)

Montage Resources, which formed in a merger of Eclipse Resources and Blue Ridge Mountain Resources (formerly Magnum Hunter Resources) in March of this year, issued their second quarter update yesterday–the first full quarter for the newly merged entity. The company released an operational update several weeks ago to announce they are cutting back from two to one active drilling rig in the second half of 2019 (see Montage Resources Cuts Drilling Program to 1 Rig in 2nd Half 2019), which they reiterated in yesterday’s update.
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Ohio Issues First Permits to Drill Under Wayne National Forest

This is a momentous occasion, nearly 13 years in the making. The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) issued permits on June 28 to drill two Utica Shale wells in Monroe County. Both wells begin on privately owned land, but then travel under sections of Wayne National Forest (WNF). As near as we can tell, these are the first two such wells to pass under WNF land. Below we tell you exactly where they’re located, and which company received the permits to drill them.
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