Another Oil Major Bails On Marcellus Shale

Another Oil Major Bails On Marcellus Shale
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Another Oil Major Bails On Marcellus Shale

There have been some signs the shale boom that re-energized America’s domestic energy industry a few years back, might be entering a maturing phase of its development. A phase where weaker players would hit a debt wall or be bought out at discounted value. A phase where, companies with cash who might have felt shale plays were too frothy at present levels, and had stayed on the sidelines waiting for the “froth” to dissipate. Biding their time. Now you can now almost hear the knives on the whetstone.

Beginning in 2019 these signs began to take shape in the massive retrenchment of the service industry that powered shale growth. Companies like Halliburton, (HAL) and Schlumberger, (SLB) threw in the towel and began to take charges against earnings, and layoff hundreds of staff.

This trend took on a real and tangible face when in a recent filing Chevron (CVX) said it would write down and put on the auction block its Marcellus shale assets. Assets it acquired from Atlas Energy in 2011 for $3.2 bn.

In the third quarter, 2019 conference call where this news was released to analysts, Michael Wirth, Chairman and CEO of Chevron commented-

“Mr. Wirth said Chevron must be selective about its investments moving forward, focusing on oil-rich regions like the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico.” – WSJ

According to CVX, not all shale is created equal. Let’s make a note of that! My job as an oil industry expert is to dig a little deeper and see if we can determine just what drove this decision.

The Marcellus vs. The Permian

Why is Chevron abandoning the Marcellus for the Permian? Let’s take a look at the isopach maps for both. In the graphic for the Marcellus, noted as Figure 2, you can see it is a relatively thin structure over most of its extent. And thins progressively the farther west it goes. The EIA comments thusly about production in the Marcellus:

“Most of the current production is located in areas where the formation thickness is greater than 50 feet.” – EIARelated: Expect More Writedowns From Oil Majors

Well, that just makes sense! But, as you look at the map of the Marcellus, one thing that strikes you is… those areas are concentrated in just a few areas on the eastern edge of the play, that some call the “Sweet Spots.” As you will see in the acreage map obtained from Chevron, they are generally quite a bit west of these sweet spots in about 50 percent of the acreage shown.

1577123225 o 1dsptt5ng181om8q1aefttm1kjt8

EIA

By comparison, the Permian play that is drawing Chevron’s attention as it exits the Marcellus is thousands of feet in thickness across a broad swath of the Permian, as the EIA map below reveals.

1577123237 o 1dsptthc7cmiepg9i0e7nimt8

EIA

Superficially, it seems to make sense. Cash out of a play that’s gas-prone if you prefer oil. One that at best is a few hundreds of feet in vertical pay and go to one with thousands of vertical feet of pay across multiple horizons.

Too bad for CVX’s shareholders they didn’t figure that out before plunking down a few billion for acreage in the Marcellus.

Take some Maalox Chevron….you’ve got gas!

If you take a look at the acreage map below, you can see Chevron’s current Marcellus footprint. As noted above they are well out of position to the eastern sweet spots in about half the play.

1577123248 o 1dsptts491sep155e1dms1hlmrs08

SourceChevron’s Post Atlas Energy Marcellus shale footprint. Note that Chevron’s acreage is about half and half. Half in the sweet spot where formation thickness is in the 150-300′ range, and half in the 25-50′ thickness range.

1577123258 o 1dsptu5tr52hmnb18rtjl52e38

EIA

The next thing we learn from the map showing oil to gas ratios is, it’s really gassy. Well that’s no surprise really as the Marcellus is the reigning champ for gas as the table from the EIA’s Drilling Productivity Report reveals.

1577123267 o 1dsptueib19qrl31of64j71p5o8

EIA

The problem and of course the root cause of Chevron’s dissatisfaction is that gas prices are in the tank due to over production domestically. There is no immediate cure on the horizon for that problem.

Thermal maturity

Thermal maturity refers to the alteration of the rock from burial depth. The heat generated from deeper burial causes the kerogen (the precursor to oil and gas) to transform into the useful forms we drill to obtain. The EIA report again has pertinent information as to what drove Chevron’s decision to walk away from the Marcellus.Related: The Complete Guide To Cementing

Thermal maturity values (based on vitrinite reflectance, Ro measurements of core samples) in the Marcellus Shale generally increase in a southeastern direction, as shown in Figure 6, ranging from 0.5 percent Ro to more than 3.5 percent across the Appalachian basin. Recent Marcellus Shale drilling activity and results suggest that the most substantial hydrocarbon production takes place roughly southeastward of the 0.6 percent Ro maturity contour in the western parts of West Virginia, eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, and southern New York. At thermal maturity values of greater than 3.5 percent Ro, the hydrocarbon production potential from the Marcellus Shale may become problematic based on the limited drilling results released to date. – EIA

1577123308 o 1dsptvmmi1k4p1o2iglo1ab498j8

Another problem CVX may have found is that a bunch of its southwestern acreage appears to be in the “thermally over-mature” area. What this will all boil down to is that the acreage will not be productive.

How about pressure?

Pressure is generally regarded as a good thing in oilfield operations, particularly when it comes to producing oil. Naturally pressured or over-pressured formations produce more oil and gas than those that are under-pressured. Pressure helps the well to overcome the effects of gravity and forces hydrocarbons up the well bore to the surface. Much cheaper than alternatives.

The EIA report, from which I drew much of the information I present here, comments about the Marcellus pressure regime.

The Marcellus exhibits several different pressure regimes across the Appalachian basin. Generally, the Marcellus is under-pressured to the southwest and normal-pressured to potentially over-pressured to the northeast, with a transitional area in between. Likely, the highest ultimate recoveries will be from the normal to over-pressured areas. The presence of these distinct pressure regimes and variations in lithology requires different approaches to well stimulation and completion (Zagorski et al., 2012). – EIA

Nearly all of Chevron’s acreage is in the western section of Pennsylvania, with about half in the southwest section. The least pressured acreage in the Marcellus.

What has been happening with gas prices since CVX did this deal?

1577123288 o 1dsptv1r1m36gocrp151h17148

Source

You could pretty much ski down this slope, absent the big “mogul” in early 2018, when it got cold for a week.

1577123327 o 1dspu08rtq51d2qlqvr6t1uuh8

Source

What the chart above tells is that operators are laying down rigs in the Marcellus in droves. Why? Because gas prices are so low, they can’t make any money.

Or, they may be like poor old CVX and just have some bad rock they need to unload to the next “greater fool.”

Summary

CVX got “city-slickered,” in its deal with Atlas. Its position in the Marcellus consists of:

  • Gas-prone reservoirs at a time when gas prices are very low.
  • Low pressure regimes that add to the costs of production.
  • Poor thickness of reservoir rock.
  • Thermal maturities that yield mostly gas vis a vis oil, or is not productive at all.

The Atlas folks have to be chuckling a bit as they head out to the Country Club. They pulled the ultimate “lipstick on a pig,” play with CVX, who fat with $100 bbl oil money opened up its checkbook to catch a wave only to find it fell flat.

It’s time to high grade its drilling portfolio and shift resources to where the return will be better. And that’s just what CVX is telling us it is going to do, focusing on the Permian.

Your takeaway

CVX’s write-down of its Marcellus assets surely won’t be the last in this play. There is just too much gas right now.

One of the problems with lower tiers of rock is that there are just less oil and gas contained in the volume of rock as opposed to Tier I acreage. This in part accounts for the sharp drop-off in production a few months after they are brought on line.

What’s next for CVX? It missed out on the Anadarko opportunity earlier this year. When the CEO says “we going to focus on the Permian,” is he talking up the possibility spending some of ~$10 bn in cash CVX has in its coffers? We wouldn’t be surprised.

Chevron will open Monday, the 23rd trading near recent highs. Knowing this charge will hit Q-4 earnings, the stock price will likely fall back toward the $110’s. It has been remarkably resilient in that area bouncing off it twice this year. CVX pays a sweet dividend of $4.76 per share, yielding just under 4 percent currently. By comparison peers Shell and BP are paying in the 6.5 percent range, so pure yield seekers might want to look at them.

Bottom-line. CVX made a misstep in the Marcellus and now must pay for it. None-the-less, it is an extraordinarily well managed company and we think at the sub-$110 level it belongs in every energy portfolio.

By David Messler for Oilprice.com


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PERSONAL USE ONLY

The Website and the Content are intended for your personal use.  You may access and view the content on the Website via your computer or other internet compatible device, and make single copies or prints of the content on the Website for your personal, internal use only.   The Website and the services offered on or through the Website, including Pipe Exchange’s e-publication and any other content and materials thereon, are only for your personal, non-commercial use. Except as otherwise provided on the Website, you may not modify, copy, distribute, transmit, display, perform, reproduce, publish, license, sell, create derivative works from, transfer, or sell any information, software, products or services obtained from the Website. Use of the Website to sell a product or service, or to increase traffic to your website for commercial reasons, such as advertising sales is expressly forbidden.

PROHIBITED USE

Any commercial distribution, publishing or exploitation of the Website, or any content, code, data or materials on the Website, is strictly prohibited unless you have received the express prior permission of Pipe Exchange or the applicable rights holder.  You may not otherwise download, display, copy, reproduce, distribute, modify, perform, transfer, create derivative works from, sell or otherwise exploit any content, code, data or materials on the Website.  If you make other use of the Website, or the content, code, data or materials thereon, except as otherwise provided above, you may violate copyright and other laws of the United States, other countries, as well as applicable state laws and may be subject to liability for such unauthorized use.  Pipe Exchange will aggressively enforce its intellectual property rights to the fullest extent of the law, including the seeking of criminal prosecution.

SECURITY

You are prohibited from violating, or attempting to violate the security of the Website. Any such violations may result in criminal and civil liabilities to you.  You warrant and agree that, while using the Website and the various services and features offered on or through the Website, you shall not: (a) impersonate any person or entity or misrepresent your affiliation with any other person or entity; (b) insert your own or a third party’s advertising, branding or other promotional content into any of the Website’s content, materials or services, or use, redistribute, republish or exploit such content or service for any further commercial or promotional purposes or take any action that would constitute or could be interpreted as an endorsement or sponsorship by Pipe Exchange of any third party site, content, information or other materials, or in any manner that would violate the terms and conditions of any such third party sites; (c) attempt to probe, scan, or test the vulnerability of any system or network; or (d) attempt to gain unauthorized access to data not intended for you and/or other computer systems through the Website.  You shall not: (i) engage in spidering, “screen scraping,” “database scraping,” harvesting of e-mail addresses, wireless addresses or other contact or personal information, or any other automatic means of accessing, logging-in or registering on the Website or for any services or features offered on or through the Website, or obtaining lists of users or obtaining or accessing other information or features on, from or through the Website or the services offered on or through the Website, including, without limitation, any information residing on any server or database connected to the Website or any services offered on or through the Website; (ii) obtain or attempt to obtain unauthorized access to computer systems, materials, information or any services made available on or through the Website through any means; (iii) use the Website or the services made available on or through the Website in any manner with the intent to interrupt, damage, disable, overburden, or impair the Website or such services, including, without limitation, sending mass unsolicited messages or “flooding,” “spamming,” or “crashing” any systems; (iv) use the Website or the Website’s services or features in violation of Pipe Exchange’s or any third party’s intellectual property or other proprietary or legal rights; or (v) use the Website or the Website’s services in violation of any applicable law.  You further agree that you may not attempt (or encourage or support anyone else’s attempt) to circumvent, reverse engineer, decrypt, or otherwise alter or interfere with the Website or the Website’s services, or any content thereof, or make unauthorized use thereof.  You agree that you will not use the Website in any manner that could damage, disable, overburden, or impair the Website or interfere with any other party’s use and enjoyment of the Website. You may not obtain or attempt to obtain any materials or information through any means not intentionally made publicly available or provided for through the Website. Pipe Exchange will investigate any alleged violations and will cooperate with law enforcement agencies in their investigations.

THIRD-PARTY CONTENT

Some of the information and material available through the Website are provided to Pipe Exchange by third parties (“Third-Party Material”). In some instances, the source of the Third-Party Material is identified. Third-Party Material is provided for your convenience only and Pipe Exchange does not endorse these materials or the parties who supply them to us. Pipe Exchange does not warrant or represent that these Third-Party Materials are current, accurate or reliable.

COPYRIGHT AGENT

We respect the intellectual property rights of others, and require that the people who use the Website do the same.  If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please forward the following information to Pipe Exchange’s Copyright Agent, designated as such pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(2), named below:

  • Your address, telephone number, and email address;
  • A description of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed;
  • A description of where the alleged infringing material is located;
  • A statement by you that you have a good faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
  • An electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright interest; and
  • A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your Notice is accurate and that you are the copyright owner or authorized to act on the copyright owner’s behalf.
  • For all email submissions please include the subject line: DMCA Takedown Request.

 

Pipe Exchange has adopted a policy of terminating, in appropriate circumstances, accounts of users of the services or the Website who are deemed to have repeatedly uploaded content that infringes the intellectual property rights of others.

 

Copyright Agent:

Pipe Exchange Legal

c/o Pipe Exchange LLC

14025 West Road.
Suite #100
Houston, TX 77041

Phone: + (713) 934-9480

Email: dmca@pipexch.com

DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES

THE WEBSITE AND ITS CONTENT ARE PROVIDED ON AN “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS, WITHOUT REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND WHATSOEVER. PIPE EXCHANGE, TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, INCLUDING THE WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY, NON-INFRINGEMENT OF THIRD PARTIES RIGHTS, AND THE WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR PARTICULAR PURPOSE. PIPE EXCHANGE MAKES NO WARRANTIES ABOUT THE ACCURACY, RELIABILITY, COMPLETENESS, OR TIMELINESS OF THE MATERIAL, SERVICES, SOFTWARE, TEXT, GRAPHICS, AND LINKS FOUND OR CONTAINED ON THE WEBSITE. PIPE EXCHANGE DOES NOT WARRANT THAT THE WEBSITE, THE CONTENT, OR ITS SERVERS ARE FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS. YOU UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT YOU OBTAIN MATERIAL THROUGH THE USE OF THE WEBSITE AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION AND RISK AND THAT YOU WILL BE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGES TO YOUR COMPUTER SYSTEM OR LOSS OF DATA THAT RESULTS.

ALL MATERIAL CONTAINED IN THE WEBSITE IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY, HAS NOT BEEN INDEPENDENTLY VERIFIED, HAS NOT BEEN RECOMMENDED BY ANY FEDERAL OR STATE REGULATORY AUTHORITY AND MAY CONTAIN ERRORS OR OMISSIONS OF MATERIAL INFORMATION. THE MATERIAL AND INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THE WEBSITE SHOULD NOT, THEREFORE, BE USED OR RELIED UPON FOR ANY SPECIFIC REASON OR APPLICATION WITHOUT INDEPENDENT COMPETENT PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION AND VERIFICATION OF ITS ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS, SUITABILITY AND APPLICABILITY. ANYONE MAKING USE OF THE MATERIAL DOES SO AT HIS/HER/ITS OWN SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE RISK AND ASSUMES ANY AND ALL ACTUAL OR POTENTIAL DAMAGE OR LIABILITY RESULTING FROM SUCH USE.

LIMITATION OF LIABILITY

IN NO EVENT SHALL PIPE EXCHANGE BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES, LOST PROFITS, OR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM LOST DATA OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) RESULTING FROM THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE MATERIAL ON THE WEBSITE OR SITES LINKED TO THE WEBSITE, WHETHER BASED ON WARRANTY, CONTRACT, TORT, OR ANY OTHER LEGAL THEORY, AND WHETHER OR NOT PIPE EXCHANGE IS ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

TERMINATION

Pipe Exchange may terminate, change, suspend or discontinue any aspect of the Website or the Website’s services at any time.  Pipe Exchange may restrict, suspend or terminate your access to the Website and/or its services if we believe you are in breach of our terms and conditions or applicable law, or for any other reason without notice or liability.  Pipe Exchange maintains a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of the Website use privileges of users who are repeat infringers of intellectual property rights.

USER’S REMEDY

If you are dissatisfied with any portion of the Website or with any of these Terms of Use, your sole and exclusive remedy is to discontinue using the Website.

GOVERNING LAW AND VENUE

These Terms of Use and the relationship between you and Pipe Exchange shall be governed by the laws of the United States and the State of Florida without regard to its conflict of law provisions. You hereby irrevocably submit and consent to the personal and exclusive jurisdiction of the courts located within Miami-Dade County, Florida and agree that any cause of action that may arise under these Terms of Use and all disputes arising out of or relating to the use of the Website shall be commenced and be heard in the appropriate court in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The failure of Pipe Exchange to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Terms of Use shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. If any provision of these Terms of Use is found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, the parties nevertheless agree that the court should endeavor to give effect to the parties’ intentions as reflected in the provision, and the other provisions of these Terms of Use remain in full force and effect. 

QUESTIONS ABOUT TERMS OF USE

If you have any questions regarding these Terms of Use, please either:

Send an email to sales@pipexch.com

Write to Pipe Exchange at the following address:

14025 West Road

Suite 100

Houston, TX 77041

 

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