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EVEP Sees Utica Opportunities

EV Energy Partners LP (EVEP) is working on "several other opportunities" in the Utica Shale, where it is continuing a dual strategy of offering wet gas acreage for sale while looking for joint venture (JV) partners to help de-risk the play's oil window.

CEO Mark Houser told the audience at the recent Independent Petroleum Association of America's (IPAA) Oil and Gas Investment Symposium in San Francisco that the company hopes to announce that it has forged a JV in the Utica for oil by the end of the year.

"As we market the wet gas window acreage, we're simultaneously pursuing JV opportunities with both service companies and production companies to really de-risk the oil play," Houser said. "We feel like we'll get more value for our oil window acreage that way, and so we're setting upon that, and we're having good encouragement early on from several companies in terms of participating in that.

"We hope to get something done over the winter. Our target is maybe by the end of the year, but it may lapse a little bit into next year. But again, we feel like de-risking this play will set aside a whole other side of upside for us."

EVEP currently has two JV partners in the Utica: Chesapeake Energy Corp. and France's Total SA. According to slides presented by Houser at the conference, the JV expects to run nine rigs through the end of the year, and projects to drill 540 total wells through 2014.

Houston-based EVEP is a publicly traded master limited partnership controlled by EnerVest Ltd., the second biggest leaseholder in the Utica. Combined, EnerVest and EVEP have more than 900,000 acres in Ohio held by production. EVEP has 54,000 net acres in the wet gas window of the Utica, including 45,000 net acres in Ohio and 9,000 net acres in Pennsylvania. The company also has 79,000 net acres in the play's volatile oil window (78,000 in Ohio, 1,000 in Pennsylvania).

"We're actively marketing those [wet gas acres] because it's been determined to be a market," Houser said. "Right now, the best we can tell [is that] the oil in place in the volatile oil window is about 16 million bbl per section...the challenge is getting it out."

In August, EnerVest said it had sold 22,535 net acres in the Utica, including 4,345 net EVEP acres, to an undisclosed buyer for $284.3 million. Houser said EVEP is to receive about $56 million ($12,900/acre) from the deal subject to price adjustments. Several sources identified American Energy Partners LP, founded by former Chesapeake Energy Corp. Chairman Aubrey McClendon, as the buyer (see related story; NGIAug. 26). 

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