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Hammered by Low Prices, Anadarko Finesses Onshore Wells, Deepwater Projects

Low commodity prices swamped the bottom line at Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in the third quarter, and with no expectations for oil and gas prices to move higher in the near-term, the independent is finessing its drilling and completion techniques to improve the future value of its broad portfolio.

Anadarko suffered a $2.2 billion loss (minus $4.41/share) in 3Q2015, versus year-ago profits of $1.09 billion ($2.12). Most of the loss was from a $1.9 billion (minus $3.69/share) impairment for the decline in the value of oil and gas properties. Adjusted for the charges, losses amounted to $358 million (minus 72 cents/share) in 3Q2015, while total revenue plunged year/year to $1.69 billion from $5.01 billion.

Net cash flow from operating activities climbed to $1.127 billion, however, with discretionary cash flow from operations totaling $979 million. The strong returns were attributed to higher margin oil volumes from the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and overseas that exceeded midpoint guidance, while costs/expenses particularly from the U.S. onshore, were at the low end. With no relief in sight for commodities, Anadarko is working to make its wells better -- more efficient and less costly, CEO Al Walker told analysts during a conference call on Wednesday.

"Our approach is to plan for the worst and hope for the best," he said. "Our focus is on delivering value rather than growth," which means "enhancing wellhead margins."

Across the U.S. onshore, the company operated an average of 23 rigs during the quarter, a decrease of 20 rigs (47%) from a year ago. The company also reduced completions activity by 47% to eight crews from an average of 15 in 2014. Less drilling meant less money spent, but it was a more efficient spend than in year's past, said Walker.

Capital investments of $1.23 billion during the quarter were below the low end of the guidance range of $1.25-1.45 billion, and for the second time this year, the company reduced the high end of its full-year capital guidance by $100 million, to a range of $5.4-5.6 billion.

Production growth is not considered a positive in this price environment, and the company does not plan to expand beyond its existing production volumes until it's profitable to do so -- and that could take awhile.

"Growth will not be rewarded in this environment and focusing on building and preserving value is more important at this time," Walker said. "When we see value in pursuing growth, we'll be prepared to accelerate activity."

Anadarko's total volumes were 72 million boe in 3Q2015, versus 78 million boe a year ago, reduced in part by selling Powder River Basin volumes of 900,000 boe. U.S. oil volumes, including the GOM, climbed to more than 42,000 b/d in the first nine months from the same period of 2014. Lower 48 natural gas volumes declined to 2.0 MMcf/d from 2.27 MMcf/d. Domestic natural gas liquids volumes fell to 110,000 b/d from 124,000 b/d.

U.S. volumes across the onshore and offshore totaled 64 million boe, versus 68 million boe a year ago. GOM gas production increased to 158 MMcf/d from 154 MMcf/d; oil output also increased to 55,000 b/d from 46,000 b/d.

Domestic oil volumes alone rose by about 24,000 b/d, or 11% year/year, which was accomplished even as the company intentionally deferred well completions in the onshore.

Even though wells have been deferred, they are not being neglected, as spending for drilling and completion continues to decline. Capital spending for 2016 is a moving target but it is to be kept in line with cash flow next year as the company zeroes in cutting more costs, moderating the decline rates in the gas and oil fields and drilling more efficiently.

The plan is to capture more savings through an improved cost structure and "permanent cost enhancements that are sustainable over the longer term," Walker said.

In the Wattenberg field in Colorado, where Anadarko today has most of its onshore activity, volumes were 14% higher from a year ago, while sequentially, drilling cycle times fell by 20% with a corresponding 15% reduction in drilling costs/foot.

More work also is underway to lay the groundwork for the extensive Permian Basin holdings, where the Wolfcamp Shale in the Delaware sub-basin is a promising venture. Improved well recoveries now approach 1 million boe/well, and efficiency gains and cost reductions are beginning to contend with Wattenberg in terms of the most attractive economics for the U.S. portfolio, Walker said.

Anadarko reduced drilling costs in the Wolfcamp to around $7.5 million/well, about 40% lower per well, with expectations that another $1.5-2 million can be cut once pad drilling begins. The first test well has been drilled in the Delaware's Second Bone Spring formation, which had an encouraging initial production rate of more than 1,000 b/d.

Drilling times in the Eagle Ford Shale have improved 8% to date this year, which enabled the company to shift rigs while still drilling the same number of planned wellbores.

In the GOM, where the prospects are expensive and long term, the Heidelberg project was advanced with topsides installed; first production is expected ahead of schedule during 2Q2016. Production from two additional wells is expected online "at a later date." Also the third appraisal test of the Shenandoah discovery encountered more than 620 net feet of pay, while an appraisal well at the Yeti discovery also was spud.

Anadarko ended the quarter with $2.1 billion of cash on hand. Year to date, it has reached agreements to monetize or has completed asset monetizations totaling $2.0 billion.

ISSN © 2577-9877 | ISSN © 1532-1266 | ISSN © 2158-8023

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