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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NFG/Seneca: Pursuing Plan B for Blocked NY Pipeline Project

Last Friday National Fuel Gas Company (NFG), headquartered in Western New York State which operates drilling subsidiary Seneca Resources and pipeline subsidiary Empire Pipeline, issued its second quarter 2018 (everyone else’s first quarter) update. Via Seneca Resources, NFG drills wells in northcentral and northwestern PA. Via Empire Pipeline, they build and maintain hundreds of miles of pipelines. NFG wants to add to their pipeline portfolio by building the Northern Access Pipeline–a $455 million project with 97 miles of new pipeline along a power line corridor from northwestern PA up to Erie County, NY. Northern Access would allow Seneca to drill new wells in an area currently pipeline “constrained.” However, Northern Access construction has been blocked by the corrupt NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation (see Cuomo’s Corrupt NY DEC Blocks NFG Northern Access Pipeline Permit). During a conference call with analysts on Friday, NFG CEO Ron Tanski outlined what we call Plan B for the Northern Access. Yes, NFG still wants to build Northern Access, but they now have an alternative. NFG recently signed an agreement with Williams’ Transco Pipeline to flow 300 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of Seneca natural gas to Transco Zone 6 markets. Transco is talking with other shippers before it files to expand the existing pipeline–a project that would not be online until late 2021. If by some miracle NFG could get the corrupt DEC to change its mind and authorize Northern Access, that project would be online in 2020. Other interesting bits of news coming from last week’s update: Seneca plans to drill Utica wells on some of its existing Marcellus well pads. Seneca added a second drilling rig in 2017, and plans to add a third rig any time now…
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Seneca Resources Wastewater Recycling Plant Largest in PA

A few years ago Seneca Resources (wholly-owned drilling subsidiary of National Fuel Gas Company) purchased a wastewater treatment facility at the McKean County Landfill and began using it to recycle Seneca’s brine (wastewater). The operation was renamed Highland Field Services and now handles all of the “sourcing, handling and recycling of fluids associated with the Seneca’s Appalachian development program.” Because of the facility, last year Seneca was able to recycle 100% of it’s brine/wastewater, and because of that, some 75% of all the fluids Seneca used in their 2017 drilling activities came from the Highland facility. Put another way, Seneca had to acquire and use fresh water sources for only 25% of all the water they needed to drill and frack–far less fresh water was needed in Seneca’s operations last year than in previous years. Not only did the Highland facility handle 100% of Seneca’s wastewater, it also handled wastewater for other drillers too–a total of 7.9 million barrels between Seneca and other drillers, making Highland the largest oil and gas wastewater recycling facility in PA…
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Trumbull Co. Residents Rally to Oppose 3 New Injection Wells

Town of Brookfield – Trumbull County, OH

Last December MDN told you about three proposed new injection wells planned for the Town of Brookfield, in Trumbull County, OH (see 3 More Injection Wells Coming to Trumbull County, OH). Highland Field Services (subsidiary of Seneca Resources/National Fuel Gas Company) brought two new injection wells online in Brookfield last year. Shortly after the two wells went online, Highland then floated a plan to build three more wells in close proximity to the existing two, a plan opposed by many in the town. Even though Brookfield Township trustees issued a “no more injection wells” letter to Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR), the ODNR ignored the letter and two weeks ago issued the necessary permits to build the three additional new wells (see ODNR Grants Permits for 3 New Injection Wells in Trumbull County). Last Thursday a group of town residents staged a rally against the three new injection wells. Do they have valid concerns?…
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ODNR Grants Permits for 3 New Injection Wells in Trumbull County

Town of Brookfield, Trumbull County, OH

Last December MDN told you about three proposed new injection wells planned for the Town of Brookfield, in Trumbull County, OH (see 3 More Injection Wells Coming to Trumbull County, OH). Highland Field Services (subsidiary of Seneca Resources) brought two new injection wells online in Brookfield last year (see ODNR Approves Plans for 2 New Trumbull County Injection Wells). Shortly after the two wells went online, Highland then floated a plan to build three more wells in close proximity to the existing two, a plan opposed by many in the town (see Trumbull Residents Want Extra 60 Days to Fight 3 Injection Wells). Even though Brookfield Township trustees issued a “no more injection wells” letter to Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR), the ODNR ignored the letter and last week issued the necessary permits to build the three additional new wells…
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NFG Quarterly Update: Seneca Could Drill More, if Pipeline Gets Built

Last week National Fuel Gas Company (NFG), headquartered in Western New York State which operates drilling subsidiary Seneca Resources and pipeline subsidiary Empire Pipeline, issued its first quarter 2018 (everyone else’s fourth quarter 2017) update. Via Seneca Resources, NFG drills wells in northcentral and northwestern PA. Via Empire Pipeline, they build and maintain hundreds of miles of pipelines. NFG wants to add to their pipeline portfolio by building the Northern Access Pipeline–a $455 million project with 97 miles of new pipeline along a power line corridor from northwestern PA up to Erie County, NY. Northern Access would allow Seneca to drill new wells in an area currently pipeline “constrained.” However, Northern Access construction has been blocked by the corrupt NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation (see Cuomo’s Corrupt NY DEC Blocks NFG Northern Access Pipeline Permit). NFG CEO Ronald Tanski gave an update for the Northern Access project on an analyst call. Tanski indicated the company engaged in a two-pronged strategy: one is a pending court case, NFG sued the DEC; the other strategy involves a request with FERC to overturn the DEC’s decision. No definitive word on when either/both will happen. In the meantime, Seneca Resources must “focus on drilling and completing wells where we have adequate take away capacity or the ability to lock in firm sales.” Which means Seneca could be drilling a lot more were it not for Cuomo blocking the Northern Access pipeline. Seneca continues to operate 2 drilling rigs. Below are portions of the analyst phone call and the complete quarterly update for NFG…
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Seneca Resources 100% PA Utica Focused by ‘End of Fiscal Year’

While Buffalo “Marcellus” Bills owner Terry Pegula’s JKLM Energy has been “steadily increasing activity” in Potter County, PA (northcentral PA) grabbing headlines, another company, National Fuel Gas (NFG) subsidiary Seneca Resources, is also active in Potter and several neighboring northcentral PA counties (Cameron, McKean, Elk, and Lycoming). We spotted a pair of stories in a local newspaper recounting Seneca’s activity to date, and outlining plans for the future. One statement in particular stood out for us: Seneca will be “shifting to 100-percent Utica development by the end of this fiscal year.” At first blush, you might think “end of fiscal year” means by Dec. 31, 2017. However, NFG and subsidiary Seneca operate on a strange fiscal year. Fourth quarter 2017 (Oct-Dec) is NFG/Seneca’s first quarter 2018 fiscal period. Since the quote about focusing 100% on PA Utica drilling came at the end of November, we interpret the quote to mean “Seneca will be 100% focused on the PA Utica by September 2018.” At any rate, let’s not get caught up in semantics and timing. The takeaways from the pair of articles below, which appeared about a week apart at end of November/beginning of December, are: (1) Seneca is shifting to 100% Utica drilling; (2) Seneca spent 60% more on drilling in 2017 than 2016; (3) Seneca is currently running either 1 or 2 rigs, depending on which quote from which story you read; and (4) between royalty payments, impact tax payments and money spent with local PA businesses, Seneca has now spent nearly $1 billion on shale drilling–all of it in northcentral PA…
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NFG 3Q17: Delayed Northern Access Pipe No Closer to Resolution

Last week National Fuel Gas Company, headquartered in Western New York State with drilling subsidiary Seneca Resources and pipeline subsidiary Empire Pipeline, issued its fourth quarter (everyone else’s third quarter) 2017 update. In the accompanying analyst phone call, CEO Ronald Tanski blamed the delay of the Northern Access Pipeline project (delayed by the NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation) for lower earnings than the company would have otherwise realized. Thanks, business UNfriendly NY! You may recall in July NFG filed a lawsuit against the DEC for arbitrarily rejecting the project (see Northern Access Pipeline Court Case Further Threatens NY DEC). On the analyst call, Tanski said the case, filed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (in NY), will hold oral arguments on Nov. 16th. Tanski also said it’s “anyone’s guess” when NFG will get an answer about the project–either from the lawsuit or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). On the drilling front, Seneca Resources produced 40.4 billion cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe) last quarter, up a tiny 1% from the same quarter a year ago. After hedging, Seneca got $2.91 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) for their gas–not too shabby. Below is the full update for NFG for last quarter (remember they also have a huge utility business, in addition to drilling and pipelines), along with excerpts from the analyst call and the latest slide deck…
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Pin Oak Energy Snaps Up 4,300 Acres, 16 Wells from Seneca in NWPA

In August MDN introduced you to a new-to-us driller based in Akron, Ohio–Pin Oak Energy Partners (see New Marcellus/Utica Driller Snaps Up Assets in OH, PA). Pin Oak is owns both conventional and unconventional (shale) oil and natural gas wells, along with associated assets (like pipelines). At the time, Pin Oak currently operated 363 wells producing nearly 5.7 MMcfe/d (32% liquids) across more than 32,000 acres in the Marcellus/Utica region. You can now add another 16 wells (14 Marcellus, 2 Utica) and 4,300 acres to those totals. Yesterday Pin Oak announced they have purchased wells and acreage from Seneca Resources–in Forest, Elk, McKean and Cameron counties in Pennsylvania. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. We can also tell you that last week Pin Oak got an increase in their line of credit with the bank–now able to borrow up to $150 million. Here’s the latest on the newest (rapidly growing) entrant to the Marcellus/Utica…
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Fed Judge Rules for Seneca Resources in PA Injection Well Fight

An update in the ongoing case of a proposed injection well in Highland Township (Elk County), PA. In 2013 the radical leftist group Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) convinced ignoramuses in Highland Township to pass a so-called Community Bill of Rights. Seneca Resources, a driller with leases and an active drilling program in Elk, had planned to drill an injection well on their own property to dispose of their own flowback and produced water. The CELDF-inspired ordinance in Highland prevented it, and Seneca threatened to sue the town (see Seneca Resources Threatens to Sue PA Town over Injection Well). Seneca made good and filed to sue, but the town and CELDF tried to block the lawsuit. Didn’t work. The lawsuit advanced. New supervisors were elected and promptly voted to overturn the so-called Community Bill of Rights (see Elk County Town Wises Up, Abandons Effort to Block Injection Well), enraging the nutters. However, last November enough locals remained fleeced to pass a so-called home rule charter which contained language making injection wells illegal. The charter was/is essentially the Community Bill of Rights under a different name and different legal structure. In an effort to extract itself from a legal hellhole of its own making, the new Highland supervisors asked a federal judge to rule in favor of Seneca Resources, but to not make Highland pay legal fees and penalties for delaying the injection well (see PA DEP Issues 2 Wastewater Injection Well Permits, Sues 2 Towns). Last Friday the judge did rule in favor of Seneca, gutting provisions in the home rule charter that attempt to regulate oil and gas (and its waste). It is a legal victory for Seneca Resources and their plan to drill an injection well in Elk County…
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Top 10 Drillers in All of PA, by Number of Permits Issued

Yesterday we brought you the “Top 10” drillers in southwestern Pennsylvania, as ranked by the number of permits issued (see Top 10 Drillers in SWPA, by Number of Permits Issued). Today we’re bringing you the Top 10 list of drillers by number of permits issued for the entire state of PA. As you might imagine, the picture statewide is quite a bit different from looking at only SWPA. Yes, some of the same companies are in both lists–but only three are in both lists (Range Resources, EQT and Rice Energy). Our Top 10 list is extracted from a list prepared by the (must read) Pittsburgh Business Times…
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NFG 2Q17: NY Pipeline Holdup Causes Shift to More Utica Drilling

Last week National Fuel Gas Company, headquartered in Western New York State with drilling subsidiary Seneca Resources and pipeline subsidiary Empire Pipeline, issued its third quarter (everyone else’s second quarter) 2017 update. NFG produced 567 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of natural gas last quarter, a 6% increase over the same quarter a year ago. NFG realized an average price of $2.94 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf), up $0.08 per Mcf from the prior year. Compare that with Antero’s hedged average of $3.41/Mcf (see today’s story about Antero 2Q17). NFG CEO Ronald Tanski had some interesting remarks with respect to the company’s stalled Northern Access Pipeline project. As you may recall, the Andrew Cuomo New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is blocking Northern Access, like they blocked the Constitution Pipeline and a tiny spur project for the Millennium. Because NFG’s Northern Access project is stalled, they are shifting their budget and drilling further west, to do Utica drilling in locations where there is already pipeline infrastructure. So this is yet another case of the NY screwing up Marcellus drilling PA that would otherwise be happening. Landowners in PA can thank NY Gov. Cuomo for screwing them over. Tanski also mentioned the court case for Northern Access, and that FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) may step in and overrule the NY DEC, as is now being considered in the Constitution Pipeline case (see today’s lead story). Here’s the update from NFG…
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Northern Access Pipeline Court Case Further Threatens NY DEC

NY DEC is on legal precipice

A new threat against the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s authority over pipeline projects is coming from yet another federal court. Last month MDN brought you the huge news that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Millennium Pipeline against the NY DEC for delaying a decision to authorize a 9-mile pipeline Millennium wants to build from their main pipeline to an under-construction natgas-fired electric plant in Orange County, NY, called the Valley Lateral Project. Which may, at first blush, seem like a defeat. It was anything but a defeat. The justices, in their decision, said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the right and responsibility to step back in and issue the water crossing permits themselves, overruling the NY DEC, if FERC so chooses (see DC Court Tells Millennium FERC Can Override NY DEC Pipeline Delay). A second court case in a different federal court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, is now progressing. That case was brought by National Fuel Gas Company in April against the NY DEC for a similar reason: delay and denial of federal 401 stream crossing permits for NFG’s Northern Access Pipeline project (see NFG Sues NY DEC in Fed Court re Northern Access Pipe Rejection). That case is now advancing and the lawyers for NFG are quoting the decision from the Millennium case as precedent for a ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court that the DEC cannot arbitrarily stop a federally-permitted pipeline project…
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PA Court Rules Compressor, Gas Well Not “Single” Emission Source

A somewhat obscure court case in Pennsylvania has potentially big implications for drillers who also own pipeline subsidiaries. In Lycoming County, PA, Seneca Resources (subsidiary of National Fuel Gas Company) drilled a series of wells on a pad called Well Pad E. Another NFG subsidiary, NFG Midstream, connected gathering lines to Well Pad E. NFG Midstream operates a compressor station to push the gas through the pipeline system. Both the well pad and the pipeline/compressor station are subject to air emissions regulations by the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP). Each subsidiary on its own–the well pad, and the compressor station–don’t produce enough emissions to trip a costly upgrade in technology. However, if you combine both together into a single “source,” the two together do cross the threshold and would cost NFG big bucks in emissions technology to comply. The DEP lumped both together and told NFG to upgrade their emissions technology. Thing is, if another company owned the pipeline system, say Williams, the DEP would not have tried combining the two into a single source. So NGF appealed the DEP decision to the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB), a quasi-court set up to hear appeals of DEP decisions. The EHB found in favor of the DEP, so NFG appealed it again, this time to PA Commonwealth Court. Last week the court overturned the DEP decision and said just because two subsidiaries have the same parent, you can’t just lump them together as a single source for air emissions regulations…Continue reading

NFG Update – Getting “Lousy Treatment” in NY, Threatens to Leave

National Fuel Gas Company (NFG), headquartered in Western New York State, is making noises (threats) that Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be very concerned about. NFG covers the full span of the oil and gas business–from upstream (with its wholly-owned drilling subsidiary Seneca Resources), to the midstream (with wholly-owned subsidiary Empire Pipeline) to downstream (NFG’s natural gas utility service to 740,000 customers in NY and PA). It’s a big company that generates a lot of jobs and revenue for New York State. Yet NY is metaphorically crapping all over NFG–and the company is signaling its willingness to retaliate by leaving. No, not move the company HQ, or sell off its gigantic utility business. Nothing of that sort (yet, anyway). But NFG CEO Ronald Tanski said on an earnings call last Friday that NFG is “getting lousy regulatory treatment in New York State” and that “Given this type of regulatory treatment in the state, we have to take a serious look at our ability to achieve any reasonable growth in New York.” Translation: We’ll stop launching new projects that invest billions in the Empire State, and instead invest that money and the jobs it creates in PA and other states. The “lousy treatment” NFG is getting is related to NY’s corrupt Dept. of Environmental Conservation decision to deny it permits to build the Northern Access Pipeline (see NFG Calls Cuomo DEC Denial of Northern Access Pipe “Troubling”). NFG has taken the Cuomo DEC to court to try and get the DEC’s capricious pipeline decision overturned. However, the damage is now done. NFG is threatening to invest elsewhere–and we take them at their word. This is not an empty threat…
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Seneca Resources Fined $375K by PA DEP for “Multiple Violations”

The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection has just fined driller Seneca Resources $325,000 for a series of violations that occurred between 2013 and 2015. It seems in moving dirt around when building drill pads, Seneca caused erosion to occur. They also spilled ~100 barrels of crude oil in one location, and ~500 barrels of wastewater at another location. The violations happened in Forest, McKean, and Elk Counties. Here’s the notice issued by the PA DEP…
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