MDN warned you in December that corporate raiders have their sights set on Marcellus and Utica midstream company Williams (see Bad News: Corporate Raiders Take Aim at Williams). The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Carl Ichan acolyte Keith Meister has his hooks into Williams. Icahn, you may recall, is the puppet master pulling the strings of Chesapeake CEO Doug “the ax” Lawler, responsible for firing over 1,200 Chessy employees. That’s the kind of class act Ichan and Meister are.
As of last Friday, Meister’s hooks went deeper into Williams as Corvex Management and Soroban Capital Partners doubled their investment in the company. This is bad news for Williams. It’s good news if you’re a fat cat like Ichan or Meister–comfortable with firing hordes of employees and selling off key assets for the sole purpose of adding lots of zeros to your bank account. Here’s an unfortunate update on Williams and the evil corporate raiders with their hooks in deep: Continue reading
The Latrobe Municipal Authority in Westmoreland County, PA (near Pittsburgh) is negotiating with Williams to lease 236 acres of municipal property for $2,500 per acre with 15 percent royalties on any gas produced. Latrobe is also talking with landowners who own adjacent property hoping they can pool enough land together to present Williams with 800-1,000 acres, including the right to drill on an eight-acre parcel owned by Latrobe located next to their wastewater treatment plant.
In February of last year, Williams, one of the 10 largest natural gas producers in the U.S., announced that it would split the company and spin out the exploration & production (E&P) business into a new company (see this MDN story). True to their word, the split is now complete, and yesterday WPX Energy, the new company formed to take on the E&P division, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Recently released data on drilling violations from the PA Department of Environmental Protection show that problems continue with the cemented steel casings that are designed to protect groundwater from methane and the fluids used to frack wells. The violations do not mean methane or fluids escaped into local groundwater aquifers—but the potential exists when a well is not cased properly. So far in 2011, 65 wells have been cited for faulty casing and cementing. Out of the many thousands of wells drilled and fracked each year in Pennsylvania, that’s not a bad ratio, but it’s certainly nowhere near acceptable. As DEP Secretary Michael Krancer has said, “One case of methane migration or well contamination is one case too many.” The industry needs to do better.
ProPublica recently compiled a list of the top 10 natural gas drillers in the U.S. based on daily natural gas production volume. The list includes gas drilled by both “traditional” vertical drilling as well as “non-traditional” horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Or think of it as non-shale gas and shale gas—companies who drill for both are in the list. The Marcellus Shale represents a good portion of the gas now being produced in the country, but other shale formations, like the more mature Barnett Shale (in Texas) also contribute a substantial volume of natural gas.
MDN presents this list as a useful resource for landowners. The biggest drillers are not always the best, and not always the right choice for a given landowner and situation. However, knowing who the “bigs” are can be a helpful guide—you know they have the money and the technology to get the gas out of the ground, and they have money to pay for leases and royalties.
The Marcellus Shale layer is about a mile down, depending on where you are. Lately, there’s been talk about tapping into the Utica Shale, which sits below the Marcellus, at about two miles down. A recent permit granted to Williams Production Appalachia to drill its exploratory well deeper on Route 487 in Sugarloaf Township, Columbia County in Pennsylvania sparked rumors that Williams was planning to tap into the Utica. But a spokesperson for Williams, Helen Humphreys, says that’s not true:
Williams is one of the largest energy producers in the U.S. Their operations include exploration & production (E&P), as well as “midstream” – or processing, storage and transportation of gas, including an extensive network of pipelines. In fact, Williams owns three interstate natural gas pipelines totaling some 15,000 miles in length. We now get word that Williams is going to split the company.
Reading financial statements by corporations is about as fun as watching paint dry—but hey, someone has to do it. We do learn important tidbits of news from drilling companies about their recent activities, and more importantly, what they are planning for the coming year. Henceforth, a few gleanings from some recent financial statements.
Will Encana Oil & Gas’ gamble in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania pay off? We’ll know soon. Encana is due to start drilling two exploratory wells in Luzerne County this week. The drilling process itself will last 65-75 days.
So why is it a gamble for Encana to drill for gas in Luzerne County? Nobody knows for sure if the Marcellus Shale gas deposits are commercially viable that far south. Continue reading