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National Fuel More than Doubles Appalachian Production

National Fuel Gas Co.'s Seneca Resources Corp. more than doubled fiscal fourth quarter production from its activities in Appalachia. This contributed to better Seneca results and for National Fuel overall during the quarter and fiscal year.

Seneca fourth quarter production of crude oil and natural gas increased 3.8 Bcfe, or 29%, to 16.8 Bcfe. Appalachian production increased 130% to 12 Bcfe, including production from the Marcellus Shale of 10.1 Bcfe. Total production for fiscal 2011 increased 36% to 67.6 Bcfe. Seneca's total reserves at Sept. 30 were 935 Bcfe, an increase of 235 Bcfe, or 34%. Seneca replaced 448% of fiscal 2011 production.

In Appalachia, the Marcellus Shale was the company's brightest star.

"In our exploration and production [E&P] segment, Seneca grew production by an exceptional 36% versus the prior year, driven by a 390% increase in production from the Marcellus Shale," said National Fuel Gas CEO David Smith. "The contiguous nature of our acreage position, its proximity to pipeline infrastructure and our strategic approach to development should help achieve robust growth for this segment into the foreseeable future."

Seneca garnered $5.59/Mcf for its natural gas after hedging during the most recent quarter. This marked a decrease of 23 cents/Mcf from the year-ago period. The weighted-average crude oil price received by Seneca after hedging for the quarter was $82.24/bbl, an increase of $8.19/bbl.

The E&P segment's earnings in the fourth quarter of $30.7 million (37 cents/share) increased $3.2 million (4 cents/share) compared with the prior year's fourth quarter, mainly due to natural gas production that was 4.4 Bcf higher than the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010.

National Fuel had consolidated earnings for the quarter of $37.4 million (45 cents/share) compared to the prior year's fourth quarter earnings of $38.4 million (46 cents/share), a decrease of $1 million (1 cent/share). Consolidated earnings for the fiscal year were $258.4 million ($3.09/share) an increase of $32.5 million (36 cents/share) from the prior fiscal year.

"For the pipeline and storage segment, fiscal 2011 was an inflection point," Smith said. "Recent market dynamics led to reduced earnings in the segment, but over the course of the year substantial progress had been made on several of our planned expansion initiatives that should provide significant earnings uplift to this segment in fiscal 2012. We are starting our new fiscal year with the October completion of Supply Corp.'s Line N Expansion project and the soon-to-be completed Empire Tioga County Extension Project."

The Tioga County Extension includes the construction of 15 miles of a 24-inch diameter pipeline, beginning near the New York-Pennsylvania border in Jackson Township, PA, and ending near the Millennium Pipeline Compressor Station in Corning Township, NY. Additionally, the Company is replacing 1.4 miles of its existing pipeline system in Victor, NY, constructing a new interconnection with Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Ontario County, NY, and performing miscellaneous modifications at existing measurement and compressor stations.

The company reaffirmed its earnings guidance for fiscal 2012 in the range of $2.85-3.15/share. This includes oil and gas production for the E&P segment in the range of 87-101 Bcfe and is based on an assumed flat New York Mercantile Exchange price of $4.50/MMBtu for natural gas and $95.00/bbl for crude oil.

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