Carnage Continues: Rig Count Down Another 76, Marcellus Down 2

The U.S. rig count continues in a freefall, losing massive numbers of rigs each week. Over the past month rigs have gone down 47, then 45, then (gulp) 80, and then 74 (see Rig Count Plunges Another 74; M-U Count Steady as She Goes). Last week the rig count crashed another 76–the second-highest loss for one week in the modern era. Most of rigs disappeared from the oil patch. However, last week the Marcellus lost 2 rigs too.
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Oilfield Service Companies Hit Hard by Crash in Oil Price

While shale oil producers are suffering mightily during the current oil price crash, brought on by both the COVID-19 coronavirus travel restrictions and the Saudi price war, the oilfield services (OFS) companies that do all of the drilling and fracking for the oil producers are suffering even more. Companies like Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes (among many others) are laying off employees and writing down billions of dollars worth of assets. On Monday Baker Hughes said it will write down $15 billion in value. While this carnage is not affecting the Marcellus/Utica per se, all of the aforementioned companies taking it on the chin in other plays also drill here in the M-U.
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PA Petrochemical Growth May Happen Due to…Coronavirus?

Quick: What’s the raw material used to make respirator masks, gloves, face shields and other high-demand products used by the medical community to combat the coronavirus pandemic? Correct, it’s plastics. And what is the primary feedstock used to make the plastic that in turn makes all of those live-saving products? Correct again: natural gas and natural gas liquids. Or another word for it, petrochemicals. The “Think About Energy” seminar series, usually held in-person, hosted its first virtual event yesterday. Four fantastic speakers spoke about how the coronavirus pandemic, among other things, may drive the expansion of petrochemicals in PA. Expanding the petchem industry in the Keystone State may literally be a life or death issue.
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What a National Ban on Fracking Would Mean in Real Numbers

We’re not anywhere close to being “through” the worst of the coronavirus siege. Yet the environmental left in this country is opportunistically using the virus to push for the end of oil AND natural gas use. It’s mindblowing how stupid they really are. They are blinded by their own wacko non-God environmental religion. As we begin to exit from the virus crisis, attention will once again return to the race for the U.S. presidency and to calls from a majority of the Democrat Party to slap a nationwide ban on fracking. What would that *really* mean, in dollars and cents and jobs? We have some numbers for you to mull over.
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Rig Count Drops Like a Rock, Biggest 1-Week Drop “in Decades”

Two weeks ago MDN told you about the biggest single-week drop in U.S. rig counts since the final week of December 2015–more than four years ago (see Biggest Rig Count Drop in 4 Years – Who’s Still Drilling?). Rigs dropped by 47 in a single week. That was then. Last week rigs dropped by another 64! NGI says it was “one of the largest down weeks in the past two decades.” Call it a new (and somber) record for the past 20 years. The good news, if there is any, is that the counts in the Marcellus/Utica remained the same week over week. Once again it seems that gas-focused shale plays are the beneficiary of the oil price crash as everyone assumes associated gas coming from shale oil plays will (sooner or later) dry up.
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COVID Loan/Grant Money for Small & Medium-Size Biz, Including M-U

Attention all small- and medium-sized businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees): Beginning tomorrow (Friday) you can sign up for the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program, part of the COVID-19 relief package recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. This is important! The program, administered by local banks (won’t charge you any fees) will allow you to borrow money to cover payroll (and benefits), mortgage interest, rent and utilities for up to 8 weeks. Here’s the kicker: Those loans, provided they meet certain guidelines, will be FULLY FORGIVEN. In other words, this is a grant to help you get through the COVID crisis. And it applies to Marcellus/Utica companies and those who service them (as well as other kinds of businesses).
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PTT Cracker Project Reaches Tax Agreement with Belmont County, OH

Even amid the coronavirus pandemonium and economic destruction happening everywhere, important oil and gas (and petrochemical) projects continue to make progress. In particular, the PTT Global Chemical plan to build an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County, OH still shows signs of life. In February PTT’s CEO signaled that a final investment decision on whether (or not) to build a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker in Belmont County, OH is coming by “mid-year 2020” (see PTT CEO Sends Loud & Clear Signal of Positive FID on OH Cracker). While work to prep the site and get it ready is now paused, work behind the scenes continues. Last week Belmont County commissioners, Mead Township trustees and the Shadyside Board of Education approved a new deal on tax payments should the project get built. This is a major milestone.
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PA Gov Wolf Vetoes Jobs-Creating Petchem Bill – Blames COVID-19

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf was less than honest when he vetoed House Bill (HB) 1100–a bill that would generate thousands of new jobs and cause money to pour into the PA economy by granting tax breaks (for a limited time) to companies willing to build *brand new* petrochemical plants ($450 million minimum investment) that use natural gas as the feedstock. In vetoing the bill on Friday, Wolf more or less blamed the coronavirus–even though he had promised to veto this bill in February, a month before the pandemic began in U.S. (see Gov Wolf to Veto Bill Attracting Cracker-Type Investment to NEPA)!
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Biggest Rig Count Drop in 4 Years – Who’s Still Drilling?

Some 47 drilling rigs were idled last week according to data provided by Enverus Drillinginfo. That’s the biggest single-week drop since the final week of December 2015–more than four years ago. The rig count stands at 766. Of the rigs idled last week, 40 of the 47 were oil drilling rigs. Of the 40 oil rigs idled, half (20) were idled in the Permian Basin. The good news is that the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale remain unchanged at 38 and 10 rigs, respectively. Rig counts in each basin have held steady for four weeks running.
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Investors Return to ‘Safety’ by Investing in M-U Gas Companies

What a change just a few weeks (and a pandemic and oil price crash) can bring! One month ago MDN brought you the sobering news that the stock prices for most Marcellus/Utica companies had sunk to new lows (see Marcellus/Utica Drillers’ Stock Prices Near/At Historic Lows). The prospects for M-U companies, as far as investors were concerned, were bleak. Oil drillers in other plays like the Permian and Bakken were pumping like crazy producing a lot of associated gas along with oil from those wells, flooding the market with an excess of gas. One month later and the picture has completely changed. M-U company stocks (some of them anyway) are rising again. EQT’s share price is up 50% in the last 30 days!
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New Study Says Petchem Tax Credit Bill Would “Transform” PA

Pennsylvania House Bill (HB) 1100, aimed at attracting new petrochemical investment to the state, was passed by the PA House and Senate earlier this year. The bill provides a tax incentive for companies to build NEW plants in the state that use Marcellus methane gas. HB 1100 was finally delivered to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf last week (see PA Petchem Bill Delivered to Gov. Wolf – Will He Sign It?). Wolf previously stated (for whatever strange reason) he would veto the bill. Republicans, Democrats, businesses, and labor unions have all pressured Wolf to reconsider and sign the measure into law. Now comes a bit more pressure.
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PA’s Conventional Oil Industry Goes from Bad to Worse

The double shock of less demand for oil because the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has shut pretty much everything down (worldwide) AND the Saudis and Russians pumping oil to the outer limits, continues to cause the price of oil to remain at historically low prices. The Russians are trying to bankrupt American shale oil drillers by driving prices into the basement. The Saudis are trying to bankrupt Russia for leaving the OPEC+ fold (and the Saudis certainly don’t mind if American shale oil drillers are put out of business in the process). The low price resulting from the double shock is affecting not only big American shale oil drillers but also mom and pop conventional oil drillers too. Particularly small conventional drillers in western Pennsylvania.
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Shale Slows Down This Year & Next; the 5 Stages of Shale Grief

It certainly doesn’t feel as though we’ve hit the bottom yet when it comes to the effect of the coronavirus and Saudi-Russia oil price war on American shale companies. We still have a way (down) to go, unfortunately. But all is not lost. There is hope on the horizon. That’s the message we take from comments by an Enverus analyst. According to RBN Energy, we’ve seen this movie before. Maybe this movie has a different storyline, but the plot is the same. Can we predict how it will play out this time based on previous downturns? RBN offers up the five stages a shale play goes through.
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PA Petchem Bill Delivered to Gov. Wolf – Will He Sign It?

Pennsylvania House Bill (HB) 1100, aimed at attracting new petrochemical investment to the state, was passed by the PA Senate in early February (see PA Senate Tweaks, Passes Bill Attracting Cracker-Type Investment). HB 1100 provides a tax incentive for companies to build NEW plants in the state that use Marcellus methane gas. Inexplicably PA Gov. Wolf said he would veto the bill when it hits his desk (see Gov Wolf to Veto Bill Attracting Cracker-Type Investment to NEPA). The Republican-controlled legislature held back from sending the bill to Wolf and for the past six weeks Republicans, Democrats, business and labor groups have conducted a high-pressure campaign to either force Wolf to sign it, or force Democrats in the legislature who voted for the bill the first time to vote for a veto override.
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Shell Shuts Down SWPA Cracker Plant Construction re COVID-19

Yesterday MDN told you that Shell had not (yet) closed down construction of the mighty ethane cracker plant they are building in Beaver County, PA (see COVID-19: Shell Keeps SWPA Cracker Construction Site Open). After a confirmed case of COVID-19 coronavirus in the county, the Board of Commissioners asked Shell yesterday to shut down the site for now. Within a few hours Shell did just that, sending home some 8,000 workers. The work stoppage will last from a few days to a few weeks.
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COVID-19: Important Energy Lessons Learned re Coronavirus Scare

As we have often pointed out, if we could have anyone else’s brain in the shale business, it would be our friend Tom Shepstone’s brain. Tom, who writes at Natural Gas Now, has given some thought to the COVID-19 coronavirus and the lessons we have learned so far from this public health crisis. As Tom points out in the following post, many of the lessons learned relate to the energy industry.
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