Appalachian pure-play Antero Resources Corp. has entered a drilling partnership worth up to $550 million with an affiliate of Quantum Energy Partners to fund a portion of its Marcellus and Utica shale development through 2024. 

Antero

Under the deal, QL Capital Partners would fund 20% of Antero’s development capital spending in 2021 and 15-20% from 2022 to 2024 in exchange for a working interest in each well spud. QL has also agreed to pay a drilling carry each year if certain performance thresholds are met. 

The drilling partnership would help fund drilling 60 wells over the four-year period. Preliminary plans focus primarily on liquids-rich development in the Marcellus Shale of West Virginia. 

The partnership is expected to increase Antero’s free cash flow by $400 million through 2025 by cutting expenses related to unutilized firm transportation, capturing midstream fee rebates and lowering interest costs because of lower total debt. 

Antero, the nation’s third largest gas producer and second largest liquids producer, now expects to achieve an absolute debt target of below $2 billion in 2023 at current strip pricing. 

Antero also announced last week that it would spend $590 million this year on drilling and completion, a 20% decrease from last year’s levels. 

“Our 2021 capital budget reflects our shift to a maintenance level capital plan and the benefit from our well cost savings initiatives that we launched in 2019,” said CEO Paul Rady. “ We are targeting total well costs of $635 per lateral foot for the second half of 2021, a 35% reduction from $970 in the initial 2019 budget. “

Antero expects to produce 3.3-3.4 Bcfe/d this year, down slightly from 3.6 Bcfe/d in 2020. The company reported fourth quarter production of about 3.7 Bcfe/d, up 15% from the year-ago period. 

Fourth quarter net income was $70 million (24 cents/share), compared with a net loss of $482 million (minus $1.61) in the year-ago period. Antero reported a full-year net loss of $1.3 billion (minus $4.65), compared with a net loss of $340.1 million (minus $1.11) in 2019. The losses in 2020 included nearly $1 billion in impairments on oil and gas properties and equity method investment.

Average realized prices in 2020, including derivatives, also declined to $2.96/Mcfe from $3.38 in 2019.