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Halcon Could Cut Capex, Keep Three Rigs in 2016

Halcon Resources Corp. is unofficially planning to keep three rigs deployed in the Williston Basin and a portion of the Eagle Ford Shale in 2016, and it could cut capital expenditures (capex) by 25%, even as it set some new drilling records during 3Q2015.

The Houston-based company reported operating revenue of $129.9 million and net income of $123.5 million (21 cents/diluted share) for 3Q3015. By comparison, Halcon generated $306.5 million in operating revenue in 3Q2014, and had net income of $186.8 million (36 cents/diluted share).

Average daily production was 40,739 boe/d in 3Q2015, an amount in line with the company's guidance, but still a 6.5% decline from the year-ago quarter (43,554 boe/d). Crude oil production fell 9.3% (from 3.3 to 3.0 million bbl) and natural gas output declined 4.1% (from 2.4 to 2.3 Bcf) year/year, but natural gas liquids production increased 21.2% (from 306,000 to 371,000 bbl).

Halcon said it expects 4Q2015 production to average 39,000-41,000 boe/d.

The company deployed three rigs during 3Q2015 -- two in the Williston Basin and one in East Texas, in a portion of the Eagle Ford Shale north of Houston dubbed the El Halcon. Halcon spud 13 wells and put nine wells online in the Fort Berthold (FBIR) area of the Williston during the quarter, and it also spud four wells and put three wells online in the El Halcon.

Twelve wells are either being completed or waiting on completion. Of those, nine are in the Williston (with five targeting the Bakken Shale and four the Three Forks formation), while three wells are in the El Halcon.

Despite the overall decline in production, Halcon said it improved its drill times and reduced its completed well costs. The company reduced its surface spud to rig release time in the FBIR area to 15.81 days, 29% faster than 3Q2014. Although completed well costs remained at about $7.2 million per well during the quarter, in the FBIR area the costs were down to about $6.8 million each.

Meanwhile, in the El Halcon, the company reduced its spud-to-total depth (TD) average to 11.41 days per three-string well, a 32% improvement over 3Q2014. Halcon set a new drilling record during 3Q2015, drilling a three-string well in 9.7 days, spud-to-TD. It also set a new record by completing an average of five fracture stages per day on a single well.

During an earnings call last Friday to discuss 3Q2015, CEO Floyd Wilson said completing a well in 14 days is "very achievable" in the future.

"The really interesting part about all that's been going on is that, for Halcon, about a third of our cost reductions have been in design changes and efficiency gains, rather than just negotiating with suppliers," he said. "And those cost reduction ideas will continue even in a higher price environment."

Wilson added that the company would "likely" keep three rigs running into 2016, adding that the capex budget for 2016 would be reduced by about 25% from 2015, which is on pace to total $325 million. If that holds, capex for 2016 would total about $244 million, enough to keep production flat. But he cautioned that these were just his comments, not official guidance.

"We don't intend to spend more," Wilson said. "If conditions persist or deteriorate, we'll be flexible to slow down the spend and contain that. [But even] if things improve, we're not going to increase our spend. We're going to give it enough time to make sure it's a real new direction, as opposed to just a temporary move driven by speculation and whatnot."

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