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Atlas Resource Partners Drills First Eagle Ford Wells

Atlas Resource Partners LP (ARP), with holdings in several shale plays across the country, drilled and completed its first three wells in the Eagle Ford Shale during the third quarter as it continues to weather low commodity prices.

On Tuesday, the master limited partnership (MLP) reported that adjusted earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization fell 21.4% year/year, from $86.7 million in 3Q2014 to $68.1 million.

ARP said average net production totaled 264.2 MMcfe/d in 3Q2015, a 2.4% decrease from a year ago (270.8 MMcfe/d). The latest total included 216.4 MMcf/d of natural gas, 4,842 b/d of crude oil and 3,121 b/d of natural gas liquids (NGL).

Total production fell in several of Atlas’s operating areas between 3Q2014 and 3Q2015. Declines were recorded in Appalachia (down 12.8%, from 40.7 to 36.1 MMcfe/d), the Barnett Shale (down 29.7%, from 82.5 to 58 MMcfe/d), and other operating areas (down 4.5%, from 5.3 to 5.1 MMcfe/d). Coalbed methane production was also down 8.3%, from 140.2 to 128.6 MMcfe/d.

But production climbed 39.2% in the Eagle Ford (from 17 MMcfe/d to 23.6 MMcfe/d) and 5.2% in the Mississippi Lime (from 12.1 MMcfe/d to 12.7 MMcfe/d).

ARP reported total revenue of $257.9 million for 3Q2015, a 24.8% increase over 3Q2014 ($206.7 million). But the partnership incurred an asset impairment of $672.2 million, which created an operating loss of $535.3 million, compared with operating income of $18.6 million in 3Q2014. The impairment was attributed to certain oil and gas properties due to recent declines in forward commodity prices.

During an earnings conference call on Tuesday, ARP President Mark Schumacher said 4Q2015 production would be affected by a decision to shut in some Marcellus Shale production, due to low commodity prices and the sale of its nonoperated interest in the County Line field in Wyoming. Together, those actions amount to 8 MMcf/d of production.

ARP drilled and completed its first three wells in the Eagle Ford during 3Q2015. Previous wells had been drilled by a former operator. He later added that in order to reduce drilling times, the MLP was employing a multi-well pad development, with a top oil rig to set surface casing to about 3,500 feet.

"We have seen significant savings in the drilling and completion costs due to process efficiencies as well as vendor cost reductions," Schumacher said. "The average drill time for our recently drilled wells has averaged 13 days, which has been reduced by three days compared to previously drilled wells."

ARP also added about 3,000 bolt-on acres in the Eagle Ford and connected two wells in the Mississippian Lime during 3Q2015.

ARP CEO Daniel Herz said while energy companies on the whole have been unable to attract new capital amid low commodity prices, the MLP is poised to "weather this type of storm for an extended period of time," largely because the company has about 90% of its projected margin protected through 2018, with additional protection extending into 2019.

According to Herz, ARP has shallow decline assets, hedges with a current positive hedge book value of about $360 million, and assets with low operating costs. ARP also has an investment partnership business, which provides the MLP with annual income from thousands of wells that aren't affected by commodity prices.

Atlas Energy Group LLC (ATLS) owns 100% general partner interest and incentive distribution rights of ARP. ATLS also owns 25 million ARP units.

During Tuesday's call, ATLS CEO Edward Cohen said the ARP parent company had successfully refinanced its debt, entering into an agreement for a term loan facility of $82.7 million that matures in August 2020.

ARP as of June held about 1.47 million net acres in the U.S. onshore, including 696,000 net developed acres and 776,000 net undeveloped acres. The MLP also had about 14,000 producing wells, with operations in 12 states. Its holdings are in the Marcellus, Utica, Barnett and Eagle Ford shales, the Mississippian Lime and the Powder River and Uinta basins.

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