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Eclipse Resources Pushing Limits to Build 'Reputable' Super Lateral Program

Eclipse Resources Corp. continued to push the horizontal boundaries of its pure-play Ohio drilling program during the third quarter, setting yet another “super lateral” record and barreling ahead with development of the state’s Marcellus Shale, where it hopes to apply the lengthy techniques.

The company drilled its first super lateral well last year, the Purple Hayes 1H in the condensate window of Guernsey County, to a horizontal length of 18,544 feet, and it had drilled 10 more by the end of the third quarter. Eclipse defines any lateral longer than 15,000 feet as a super lateral.  The company drilled about 10 net wells during the quarter, four with average lateral lengths of 17,500 feet.

“Eclipse is working to create a reputable program that seeks to push out the boundaries of technical feasibility, while showing material improved returns and improving [estimated ultimate recoveries],” said COO Oleg Tolmachev during the company’s third quarter earnings call. CEO Benjamin Hulburt added that the company is “constantly striving” for innovation with its drilling program, which he said is aimed at lowering drilling and completion costs in the company’s Utica core.

Eclipse set a new record during 3Q2017, drilling the Mercury 5BH in the Utica condensate window to a lateral length of 20,800 feet in 13 days from spud to total depth. That shatters the company’s previous record, set with the Outlaw C 11H’s 19,500 foot lateral. Operators across the country have been targeting core acreage, focused on optimizing development with longer laterals and shorter stage spacing, but Eclipse’s management has repeatedly plugged its program, making long laterals the main storyline of its operations.

“We continue to believe that this type of well design and operational performance is poised to disrupt the conventional notion of play economics, as it spreads to other fixed costs associated with the pad development and the vertical portion of the well over a longer completed lateral,” Tolmachev said.

In the latest quarter, Eclipse started turning in line five wells in the Utica condensate area, including the Great Scott 3H (19,200-foot lateral) and the Outlaw. Three other wells have an average lateral length of 10,300 feet. The Great Scott and Outlaw have reached an average 24-hour production rate of 3,300 boe on restricted choke, consisting of 68% liquids.

“We have maintained our focus on extending the lateral length of all the wells we drilled during the year and now estimate that we will have an average lateral length in 2017 of over 13,700 feet, while estimating that the average lateral length will grow to over 16,000 feet in 2018,” Tolmachev said. Prior to the Purple Hayes, the company’s laterals averaged about 8,000-10,000 feet.

Eclipse has nearly 114,000 net acres across just five Ohio counties. While most of the land is prospective for the Utica, about 14,000 acres overlays the liquids-rich Marcellus, which is largely unproven in that part of the basin. Eclipse operates just one producing Marcellus well in the state.

Eclipse is in the process of completing a stacked pay pad in Monroe County, where two Marcellus condensate wells are expected to be turned to sales in January. Management has previously said that the company would like to apply its super lateral techniques in the Marcellus, where it could be more tricky given the formation’s geological characteristics.

“If the Marcellus wells perform as anticipated, this Marcellus condensate acreage could generate returns consistent with our best Utica acreage and include over 70 risked, 10,000-foot lateral locations that we could then develop in conjunction with our dry gas Utica position in this area of Ohio,” Tolmachev said.

Eclipse produced 353 MMcfe/d during the third quarter, well above the 221.6 MMcfe/d it produced in the year-ago period and the 287.8 MMcfe/d it produced in 2Q2017 as it’s continued to shake off the rust of the downturn and gain momentum throughout the year. The company is planning to add a second completion crew in 1Q2018.

Hulburt said a $325 million drilling joint venture with GSO Capital Partners affiliate Sequel Energy Group LLC, expected to provide more financial flexibility, is on track to close in the next month. The agreement was initially expected to be finalized at the end of September, but the parties have been working to put the finishing touches on binding documents, and it must be approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Average realized prices, including cash-settled derivatives and firm transportation expenses, increased to $2.59/MMcfe in 3Q2017 from $2.51/MMcfe in 3Q2016 to. Revenue also increased to $91.5 million from $54.5 million.

Eclipse reported a net loss of $16.7 million (minus 6 cents/share) for the third quarter, compared with a net loss of $25.9 million (minus 10 cents) in the year-ago period.

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