Is Shell Pulling Out of Pennsylvania Marcellus?

Is Shell (or SWEPI, formerly known as Shell Western E&P Inc.) leaving its Pennsylvania Marcellus drilling program behind? You may recall we posted a story in June quoting Tonya Williams, general manager for Appalachia with Shell, as stating (during her talk at the DUG East event in Pittsburgh) that Shell plans to spend $150 million to drill wells on four pads in 2018, all of it in Tioga County (see Shell Focused on Single PA County, No New Drilling in Other Areas). Although Shell has wells and acreage in 10 Pennsylvania counties, Tioga is the focus for this year. Barley two months later, in early August, MDN received a note from a trusted reader saying that Shell is pulling out, ending its Marcellus program and sending their personnel to Texas. Frankly, we were skeptical.
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Shell Focused on Single PA County, No New Drilling in Other Areas

Some big news about Shell’s plans for drilling and fracking in the Marcellus/Utica region came from this week’s DUG East conference in Pittsburgh. The Shell head of unconventional drilling in PA told conference goers that Shell’s shale drilling is currently focused on one county: Tioga County, PA. Shell has leases on 250,000 acres in Tioga and plans to spend $150 million to drill wells on four pads in 2018. That’s the focus for this year. According to MDN’s recently published Marcellus & Utica Shale Upstream Almanac, Shell also has assets (producing wells) in Bradford, Butler, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, and Potter counties–all in PA. The Shell rep said the company also owns leases in eastern Ohio, in the Utica, but there’s no current plans to drill in Ohio. Instead, they remain laser focused on PA–specifically Tioga County…
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SWEPI Auctioning 189K PA/NY Conventional Acres, 1,500 Active Wells

SWEPI, formerly known as Shell Western E&P Inc., is the North American land-based drilling arm of giant Royal Dutch Shell. SWEPI has an active drilling program in the Marcellus/Utica region. Some of that active program has traditionally been in shallow, or conventional (not shale) drilling. Using a broker, SWEPI has put up a mammoth 189,000 acres of its conventional/shallow leases and wells for sale by auction. The leases and some 1,500 active oil and gas wells are located in Forest, Elk, McKean, and Warren counties in Pennsylvania, and Cattaraugus County in New York. The sale includes shallow rights (not shale rights) only. SWEPI claims there are another 10,000 potential well locations. Here’s the details…
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SWEPI Puts 9,346 Acres of PA Marcellus Leases Up for Auction

auctionFrom time to time exploration and production companies (aka “drillers” or “producers”) decide to sell leases for acreage they don’t plan to drill on or under. Typically when a new play is discovered there is a bit of a land rush as drillers begin leasing. In the Marcellus, a driller may decide to concentrate on a specific county in the state, as Cabot Oil & Gas did with Susquehanna County in northeastern PA. Cabot happened to hit the jackpot with some of the most productive gas wells on the planet. Other times, when the leasing is done and drilling has begun drillers begin to figure out where they want to spend their money. It takes a lot of money to drill a Marcellus well–on the order of $7 million. Eventually drillers find there are isolated tracts of acreage they’ve leased that don’t fit with their future plans, so they either horse trade and swap, or perhaps put the acreage leases up for public auction. Such is the case with Shell’s SWEPI subsidiary. They recently posted three largish tracts of leased acreage up for auction–two in Tioga County, PA and one in Potter County, PA. Here’s a description of the land SWEPI is trying to dump…
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Tioga County, PA Landowners Won’t Let Driller Clean Up

keep outThis one has us scratching our heads. Landowners Damon and Kendra Baker, in Tioga County, PA, signed a lease with Shell’s SWEPI in 2006. We’re guessing the signing bonus was peanuts because at that time the Marcellus was still in its infancy in PA. SWEPI constructed a well pad on their property in 2010 but had drilled no wells by the time the lease expired in 2011. The Bakers wanted a healthy re-signing bonus to allow SWEPI to lease their land again. SWEPI’s final offer was $150,000 (not sure for how many acres). The Baker’s, according to SWEPI, wanted half a million dollars. SWEPI said “no thanks” and therefore, according to state Dept. of Environmental Protection standards, needs to restore the property to its original state and be done with it. But the Bakers won’t let them re-enter the property. So SWEPI is suing and the clock is ticking–they only have until December to put it back to original condition or the company will be fined $500/day until it’s done…
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Court Forces SWEPI to Pay PA Landowners $4.1M in Lease Dispute

Gavel-falling.jpgThe U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has sided with landowners in a dispute with Shell’s shale drilling arm, called SWEPI (Shell Western Exploration Production Inc.). SWEPI signed a lease with two landowners who own a collective 1,036 acres in Lycoming County. SWEPI promised a $4,000 per acre signing bonus, but a few months after signing SWEPI decided they didn’t want the acreage after all and tried to cancel the lease and the bonus payment. The judge ordered SWEPI to pay $2,072,000 to each of the two landowner families…
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District Court Judge Tosses PA Landowner’s Lack-of-Drilling Case

court-gavel.jpgThis is the tale of landowners who negotiated a lease without consulting a qualified oil and gas attorney, and later regretted the decision. In 2008 the owners of a small hunting and fishing camp in Tioga County, PA negotiated and signed a lease with East Resources, which was later sold to SWEPI (i.e. the shale drilling arm of Shell). The lease, so the landowners thought, guaranteed that 11 wells would be drilled on the 240-acre property, and that a pipeline would be used to flow gas only from those wells. The landowners got a nice signing bonus–$287,000. They also got $164,000 for a pipeline right-of-way. But only one well was ever drilled–and it’s capped. And there is a pipeline–flowing other people’s gas through it. The landowners sued and a district court judge ruled last week that the landowners don’t have a case for their “shattered dreams” as they thought they did. It all comes down to a poorly worded lease and signing a lease without running it by a lawyer first…
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PA DEP Fines 3 Marcellus Drillers $374K for Methane Migration

finedYesterday the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection announced an agreement/settlement with three Marcellus drillers operating in the northeastern portion of the state. The three–Chesapeake Energy, XTO Energy and SWEPI (i.e. Shell) were fined a collective $374,481 for methane migration related to their drilling activities at three locations (three different counties) in 2011 and 2012. The bad news is that 13 private water wells between the three incidents were negatively affected, along with several local creeks. The good news is that the problems are all fixed. Methane migration is an eminently fixable condition. Here are the details for each fine, including what happened and where it happened…
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PA DCNR Publishes Lease Agreements for Deals Under Rivers/Creeks

who owns itIn February 2015, MDN did a deep dive into the issue of Pennsylvania leasing underneath rivers and streams to allow Marcellus/Utica Shale drilling (see PA DCNR Program Leases Under Rivers/Creeks for Marcellus Drilling). PA maintains the state owns the land underneath any river or creek that is “navigable” and therefore has the right to lease it for drilling, denying the landowners who own the land along the banks of that stream signing bonuses and royalties. It is a thorny issue. Does the state actually “own” the land under rivers and creeks? It’s an issue that (seems to us) should be litigated and decided. In that story in February MDN brought you a list of river and creek deals signed, as of early January, with an indication of who signed and how much the signing bonus was for. At the bottom of that list (we’ve included the list below for your convenience) are six deals with Shell’s SWEPI–five of the deals for tracks of river/creeks in Tioga County, PA, and one in Forest County, PA. Interestingly, the Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the state agency doing the leasing on behalf of the state, has just published notification for those six SWEPI deals in the May 2 Pennsylvania Bulletin which include the full details for each deal…
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McClendon Buys 48K WV Marcellus Acres, 27K More OH Utica Acres

silhouette questionYet another major announcement yesterday from Aubrey McClendon, former CEO of Chesapeake Energy and current CEO of a new company he founded, American Energy Partners (AEP). Aubrey is spending another $1.75 billion to buy more acreage (and functioning wells) in both the Ohio Utica and now, for the first time, in the West Virginia Marcellus Shale. The WV acreage is in the wet gas areas of the state. According to the AEP press announcement, East Resources is the seller. Which is interesting to MDN since Shell bought all (or nearly all) of East’s northeast shale acreage in 2010 (see East Resources Sells to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 Billion, Deal Includes All of East’s Marcellus Shale Operations). So was the deal actually with Shell using the East name on paper? Or leftover vestiges of the old East Resources?…
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Exclusive: McClendon Buys 24K Acres of SWEPI Leases in OH Utica

exclusiveIt seems that Aubrey McClendon is already putting some of that $1.7 billion he recently raised to good use (see McClendon Gets a Little Help ($1.7B) from His Friends in OH Utica). Thanks to an alert commenter on the website, we now know where some of that $1.7B went.

In paperwork filed with the Guernsey County, OH Recorder’s office dated October 10, 2013, SWEPI (i.e. Shell) assigned what appears to be most or all of their leased Utica Shale acreage in Guernsey County over to McClendon’s America Energy – Utica company. The transfer (full copy embedded below listing ALL of the leases and landowners by name), includes 24,650 gross/24,016 net acres…
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Russian Spinmeisters Talk Down American Shale, Makes Us Laugh

Russia hates the American shale revolution because it threatens their worldwide dominance in natural gas, and it threatens their ability to threaten others with it. Vlad Putin has long poo-pooed our shale reserves as nothing more than a flash in the pan. So we found it amusing to read the story (below) from the Voice of Russia Radio network that tries to spin Shell’s recent exit from some of its holdings into a story about oil and gas companies are “losing interest” in American shale. Yeah right! We had to pick ourselves up off the floor after laughing so hard.

Uh, VOR, have you ever heard of the wholly-owned Shell subsidiary called SWEPI? It stands for Shell Western Exploration and Production Inc. Oh, and East Resources? Yeah, Shell bought them. Shell now owns 850,000 acres in the Marcellus Shale play–#2 behind Chesapeake’s 1.8 million acres. So please, tell us again how Shell is abandoning American shale plays–we need another good laugh!…
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Marcellus Permits Nearly Double in Warren County, PA

Over the past decade, 11 permits for horizontal Marcellus Shale drilling have been issued in Warren County, PA: Range Resources got 6 of those permits, PA General Energy got 4 of them, and Hunt Marcellus Operating received 1 permit.

The number of permits has now almost doubled in Warren. SWEPI LP recently received 10 permits to drill—all of them for the Hook Run Farm in Mead Township.

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Chesapeake Sells Permian Basin, Midstream Assets for $6.9B

Although we’ve known for a while that the embattled Chesapeake Energy has been shopping some of it’s shale basin and other assets in order to pay down debt, they’ve made a huge announcement today. Chesapeake has sold most of its Permian Basin acreage along with “substantially all of its midstream” assets for $6.9 billion. The buyers for the Permian were Shell, Chevron and EnerVest. Most of Chesapeake’s remaining midstream assets were sold to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP).

Chesapeake previously announced they would sell off assets in areas where they were not number one or two in an attempt to repay loans and concentrate their drilling in core areas. Two of the core areas where Chesapeake is sticking around are the Marcellus and Utica Shale.

From the Chesapeake Energy press release:

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