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Antero Sets Sights on 85% Appalachia Production Growth This Year

With 20 rigs running across the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, Antero Resources Corp. is undoubtedly the Appalachian Basin's most active operator, and even with triple-digit production growth last year, the company has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

Net production last year increased 119% over 2012 to reach 522 MMcfe/d for the pure-play operator, which awed the marketplace in October when it went public with the largest offering of any independent exploration and production company in 2013 (see Daily GPI, Oct. 11, 2013). Production could have been even greater had it not been for the delay of two compressor stations that were expected to come online in 4Q2013 in the Utica, where six wells depended on them, said CEO Paul Rady.

Those stations will both be fully operational by this summer. Another two processing facilities expected to come online in the Marcellus Shale by the end of the year -- boosting takeaway capacity in the play to 1 Bcf/d for the company -- have Antero forecasting production growth of up to 85% this year.

With its growth plan on track and the goal of bringing 79 Utica and Marcellus wells online by the end of 2Q2013, financial analysts were more than willing to ignore a 4Q2013 loss of $225 million (minus 86 cents/share) and instead focus on the company's future. In 4Q2012 Antero reported a profit of $85 million, but last quarter found it paying debt early and spending on noncash stock compensation, while making $152 million in noncash gains from unsettled hedges.

Earlier this month Antero announced that it increased its proved reserves by 78% from 4.2 Tcfe at year-end 2012 to 7.8 Tcfe in 2013 (see Shale Daily, Feb. 4). Reserves are expected to significantly increase, and Antero's liquids production is projected to move from 7% of overall extraction to 16% this year on greater well efficiencies and more land acquisitions.

"During the year we shifted over to shorter stage lengths (SSL) and that has improved our recoveries. We were able to upgrade our type curve by 18% for wells completed with SSL," Rady said of Antero's Marcellus program. "That moves us from 1.5 up to 1.73 Bcfe per 1,000 feet of lateral. It's still early in the process of capturing these SSL results, so we've only booked 14%, or 91 locations, of our 665 proved undeveloped locations (PUD). We expect to materially increase those numbers by the end of 2014 taking into account more SSL results."

Antero plans to drill and complete nearly all of its Marcellus wells with SSL and remains focused on drilling multi-well pads across the basin. The company also plans to deploy a seventh hydraulic fracturing (frack) crew to West Virginia so it can quickly work to bring online its backlog of wells in the Marcellus.

Last year, production was composed of 484 MMcf/d of natural gas, 5,815 b/d of natural gas liquids and 618 b/d of crude oil. What's more, overall liquids production last year increased by 2,494% from 2012.

A diversified midstream portfolio, meanwhile, saw average natural gas prices, before hedges, increasing 30% year/year in 2013 to $3.90/Mcf, a 25 cent premium to the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex). Company officials added that their plan to spin-off Antero's midstream assets remained on track (see Shale Daily, Feb. 7), but they stopped short of saying when such a partnership might go public.

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