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Marcellus Infrastructure Buildout Quickens, Says Access

published by NGI's Shale Daily: August 5, 2013

The number of Marcellus Shale natural gas wells waiting on infrastructure provided by Access Midstream Partners LP has fallen by more than half since the end of 2012, CEO J. Mike Stice said Wednesday.

The management team hosted a conference call with analysts to discuss second quarter results. At the end of 2012, the company had 250 Marcellus wells waiting on pipeline. By the end of June, the number had fallen to "less than 115," Stice said.

That additional infrastructure helped to break throughput records across the play. From April through June, Marcellus output averaged 930 MMcf/d, an increase of nearly 50% from the same period a year ago.

If the Access operations in the northern portion of the Marcellus were a standalone company, it would be "one of the largest in the entire sector," said Stice. The southern end also is going gangbusters, with record volumes of 350 MMcf/d in the latest period.

"We recently set a daily throughput record in the Marcellus Shale with the Marcellus North assets generating more than 2 Bcf/d of gross throughput," said Stice.

Total gas throughput across all of the Access portfolio in 2Q2013 averaged 333.5 Bcf, which comes to about 3.67 Bcf/d -- almost 28% more than in the year-ago period, when it was 2.87 Bcf/d.

Besides growth in the Marcellus, throughput gains were solid in the Eagle Ford and Haynesville shale gas assets that were acquired last December.

Late last year gas pipeline giant Williams bought half of the Access gas system, formerly a big part of Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s business (see Shale DailyDec. 13, 2012). Global Infrastructure Partners LP earlier last year bought a big chunk of Access and branded it under the Access name (see Shale DailyAug. 10, 2012).

Access connected more than 230 Eagle Ford wells in the first six months of this year and more than 100 new receipt meters to the gathering systems, Stice noted.

"Customer diversification" remains a top goal for Access, said the CEO. Access wants to reduce its Chesapeake base to about 50% of business from its current 75%. But it's gong to take some time, he said, as Chesapeake continues to dominate in many of the areas that need midstream infrastructure.

The fall-off in Chesapeake business will continue as the operator "completes asset sales." Also, Access may add to its onshore portfolio, Stice added. Access recently gained more of a footprint in the Haynesville and Niobrara formations after Chesapeake sold some assets.

"We've got something like 30 wells or so waiting on pipeline" in the Niobrara on 10 drilling rigs that are running," said COO COO Bob Purgason. "But we really need to be thinking about the Niobrara from a profitability perspective...as a 2015 growth story.

"Niobrara will make an impact on our financials in 2014...We're building a processing facility in the Niobrara and now producers are building an inventory of wells," but it will be "mid-to-late next year before significant volumes are beginning to flow."

Utica Shale midstream infrastructure also should add to the bottom line by 2014, said Stice. Work is progressingwithin the Utica East Ohio Midstream LLC (UEO) venture.

A contract was recently awarded to build a 200 MMcf/d cryogenic unit in Leesville, OH through UEO, a joint venture of Access, M3 Ohio Gathering LLC and EV Energy Partners LP (see Shale DailyJuly 29). The JV plans to invest about $900 million over the next five years to develop an eastern Ohio midstream complex.

UEO expects to have 800 MMcf/d of wet gas processing capacity in Ohio and 135,000 b/d of fractionation, with on-site liquids working storage of 870,000 bbl.

"We're very excited about the condensate market," said Stice. A liquids facility at the Harrison midstream hub in Ohio "is world-class. We have installed an enormous amount of rail infrastructure, as condensate comes into the facility, and we plan to do additional things with condensate from the rail head...

"Producers have not defined a condensate system as one of their needs; they see trucking as the primary option. My view is that over time it will be economical to have central delivery points to minimize the cost of trucking and optimize netbacks...We're not at that stage yet."

The partnership's adjusted earnings in 2Q2013 totaled $206.6 million in 2Q2013, an increase of almost 71% ($85.7 million increase) from the year earlier. Net income totaled $69.2 million, up $17 million (34%) from 2Q2012.

 Revenues climbed about 66% to $247.2 million from $149.3 million. Capital spending in the second period was $425.2 million, including maintenance costs of $27.5 million and $190.2 million for the partnership's share of spending in entities accounted for as equity investments.

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