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Southwestern Expects 60% More Marcellus Production in 2014

Improving well performance has Southwestern Energy Co. (SWN) expecting to extract 244-249 Bcf from the Marcellus Shale next year, a 60% increase compared with an estimated 148-149 Bcf this year, the company said Tuesday.

SWN is targeting total net gas and oil production of 740-752 Bcfe in 2014, up about 14% over the company's production projection of 653-655 Bcfe for 2013.

The Houston-based company said it will spend about $2.3 billion on capital investments, compared with a projected $2.25 billion capital program in 2013, but the Marcellus production surge won't require more money to be spent there.

"In the Marcellus Shale, our production growth will exceed 60% from 2013 levels, even though we will invest less capital," said CEO Steve Mueller. "This reflects the continued improvement in well performance in our Bradford, Lycoming and Susquehanna [Pennsylvania] acreage. Our Susquehanna County properties continue to encourage us, as we recently placed a well on line that achieved a peak 24-hour production rate of over 32 MMcf/d."

SWN plans to drill about 41 wells in Bradford County, 27 wells in Susquehanna County, seven wells in Lycoming County and eight horizontal delineation wells on acreage that it acquired this year in Wyoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties. Average re-entry to re-entry time to drill its operated horizontal wells to total depth will be close to 11.3 days in 2014, compared with 11.9 days projected for 2013, the company said.

SWN had record results in 3Q2013, including nearly double the gas production in the Marcellus Shale from the previous year's quarter (see Shale Daily,Nov. 4).

Total net production from the Fayetteville Shale, where SWN cut its teeth, is expected to be 479-484 Bcf in 2014, essentially flat compared to a projected 483-484 Bcf this year. SWN expects the average re-entry to re-entry time to drill its operated horizontal wells to total depth in the Fayetteville will decrease to around  6.2 days in 2014 from 6.5 days in 2013.

"In the Fayetteville Shale, our well performance continues to improve, evidenced by a well we recently placed on production at over 12 MMcf/d, and our efficiencies created by our vertical integration are also expected to continue to improve keeping our well costs low," Mueller said.

SWN management continues to be excited by results of its work in the Lower Smackover Brown Dense formation, an emerging unconventional play in southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. The Brown Dense program "gives us meaningful upside as we initiate a 10-well development program, in addition to the continued delineation of the play," Mueller said. SWN plans to drill up to 14 vertical wells next year.

The company's New Ventures plans include drilling up to eight gross wells, including further testing in the Denver-Julesburg Basin in Colorado and the Paradox Basin in Utah.

Assuming a New York Mercantile Exchange commodity price of $3.75/Mcf for 2014, SWN is targeting net income of $635-645 million in 2014.

SWN also announced that Harold M. Korell will retire as chairman of the board of directors at the 2014 stockholder meeting. The board intends to elect Mueller, who would continue as CEO, as chairman at that time. Korell has been with Southwestern for 17 years, including a decade as CEO and most recently as nonexecutive chairman.

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