Antero Resources Corp. said Wednesday that this year’s completion schedule, a pipeline rupture in Ohio and last month’s extreme cold are likely to combine in holding its first quarter production flat with 4Q2017 volumes of 2.347 Bcfe/d.
More specifically, operational issues at Markwest Energy Partners LP’s Sherwood Processing Facility in Doddridge County, WV, during a cold snap last month and a rupture on Rockies Express Pipeline’s Seneca Lateral about two weeks ago that affected another MarkWest plant cut into production. Both of those issues have since been resolved.
But the frigid cold that gripped much of the country between late December and early January have the company forecasting a net marketing gain for the first time since it went public in 2013. Antero said “attractive” natural gas prices and significant marketing revenues during the first quarter are likely to offset the period’s constrained production.
“It was certainly a strong beginning to the year and it, of course, reflects the cold that hit the Northeast. So, we were able to move not only our gas, but buy a lot of distressed third-party gas that couldn’t get out of the area,” CEO Paul Rady told financial analysts during a call to discuss the company’s year-end results. “We were able to deliver gas to good high markets. We’re talking Chicago, Michcon, even the Gulf, because of salt storage draw down, and good prices through January along the eastern seaboard. It was really a good situation.
“As we fill more and more of our capacity, we’ll be able to take advantage of good prices,” he added. “Will we be able to duplicate that? Time will tell. As our production grows, it certainly still is a good strategic advantage for us.”
Fourth quarter production was up 18% from the year-ago period and 1% from 3Q2017. Management said first quarter completions would be most noticeable in the second quarter and that the production constraints are not likely to affect the company’s 2.7 Bcfe/d full-year guidance. Antero produced 2.253 Bcfe/d in 2017, compared to 1.847 Bcfe/d in 2016.
Rady said last year was an “inflection point” for Antero as it’s now positioned to generate free cash flow, reduce leverage and target double digit production growth over the next five years. Antero became the nation’s largest natural gas liquids (NGL) producer in 3Q2017 based on its own review of public company disclosures.
That story continued in the fourth quarter, when the company produced 107,433 b/d, up 24% from the year-ago period and from the 105,609 b/d it produced in 3Q2017. Liquids revenue represented 41% of all product revenues in the fourth quarter, increasing from the 30% it accounted for at the same time last year. Full-year liquids production averaged 105,470 b/d, compared to 78,002 b/d in 2016.
Rady said Antero now controls more than 40% of the undrilled liquids-rich inventory in the Appalachian Basin. The company plans to grow NGL production 20% annually through 2022.
Antero also placed 10 horizontal Utica Shale wells to sales at the end of the fourth quarter that are flowing at a combined constrained rate of more than 200 MMcf/d. They are the first wells completed by the company in the Ohio Utica dry gas window. The company also drilled its two longest Marcellus laterals ever, with both reaching over 14,000 feet. Those were drilled on a 12 well pad that’s the company’s largest to date, which Rady called “remarkable” because the location is expected to deliver 300 Bcfe of reserves.
Antero’s average realized natural gas price in the fourth quarter decreased 8% from the year-ago period to $2.80/Mcf. That included a negative impact of 20 cents from ongoing contract disputes with WGL Midstream Inc. and South Jersey Gas Co. (SJGC). The company’s pre-hedge gas price would have been $3.00/Mcf without losses from those contracts.
Antero amended its agreement with WGL and said the SJGC dispute is not expected to affect realized prices this year as more takeaway capacity comes online and Appalachian basis is forecast to narrow.
Antero reported an all-in price of $3.82/Mcfe for the fourth quarter, which was down 10% from the year-ago period on lower realized hedge gains.
Fourth quarter revenue was $1.022 billion, up from $156 million in revenues at the same time last year, when the company recorded an $829 million noncash loss on unsettled hedges. Net income during the quarter was $487 million ($1.54/share), compared to a net loss of $486 million (minus $1.55) in 4Q2016.
For the full-year, revenue was $3.7 billion, compared to $1.7 billion in 2016. Antero reported net income of $615 million ($1.94), up from a net loss of $848.8 million (minus $2.88) in 2016.