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Gulfport CEO Says Industry Needs ‘More Measured Pace Of Growth’

After posting substantial production growth for the third quarter, Gulfport Energy Corp. said it plans to strategically curtail 100 MMcf/d of natural gas production between now and early 2016 in response to current commodity pricing.

Even with the curtailment, management of the Oklahoma City-based exploration and production (E&P) company told investors during its third quarter earnings call last week that it’s still on track to hit the high end of its 2015 production guidance thanks to greater efficiency and better-than-expected output from its Utica Shale wells.

Gulfport also said it plans to spend an additional $60 million on production activities in 2015 to be offset by suspending fracturing and completion activities for 1Q2016, during the less efficient winter months.

“In today’s market, I believe what our industry needs is a more measured pace of growth,” CEO Michael Moore said. “We are consciously curtailing production, laying down a completion crew during the first quarter of 2016 and foregoing the addition of a fifth rig, which will all lead to essentially slowing down our growth, because we think it’s a sensible thing to do. Our hope is that our peers, some by choice rather than necessity, will do the same.”

In 3Q2015, Gulfport produced 48.1 Bcf of natural gas, a big jump over 3Q2014, when the company produced 16.6 Bcf. The E&P also produced 49.1 million gallons of natural gas liquids (NGL) and 732,100 bbl of oil in 3Q2015, compared with 23.7 million gallons and 571,400 bbl in 3Q2014.

Gulfport reported larger-than-projected negative basis differentials on its natural gas production for the quarter, with an average realized pre-hedged price of $2.07/Mcf, or 70 cents below New York Mercantile Exchange prices for the quarter. Realized prices on NGLs averaged $8.07/bbl for the quarter.

“We did not feel it was appropriate to produce more molecules in 2015 just for the sake of growing in excess of our already strong guidance,” Moore said. “While we could have done that, it would have been at the cost of our realizations. Bottom line, by temporarily delaying that production, we will get a better price. Our reason for accelerating completions ahead of winter are simple as well. It saves us $500,000 per well.”

Moore said Gulfport would deliver growth in 2016 but gave a wide range for a possible capital expenditure (capex) scenarios. He referenced a previous August capex range (not including $60 million saved from suspended 1Q2016 activity) of anywhere from 25% year/year growth and spending around $300 million to 50% year/year growth and spending between $625-725 million.

“While in August we were leaning toward the higher end of that range, further deterioration in commodity prices has us at this point directionally moving downward toward the middle of the suggested levels of activity,” Moore said.

The CEO also updated investors on the company’s midstream joint venture with Rice Energy (see Shale Daily, Oct. 8). The companies are in the process of developing “complete connectivity” and “interchangeability” between their respective gathering systems.

“Upon completion in early 2016, we will have the ability to move production across all systems, and at that time plan to begin flowing the curtailed volumes to the premium end markets,” Moore said.

Outside the Utica, Gulfport reported better-than-expected price realizations for its Southern Louisiana production, averaging $40.53/bbl including transportation costs but before hedging, a $5.91/bbl negative differential to the West Texas Intermediate price. The company produced 3,559 boe/d in Southern Louisiana during the quarter.

Gulfport reported a net loss for 3Q2015 of $388.2 million (minus $3.59/share), compared with net income of $6.9 million (8 cents) for the year-ago period. Expenses for the quarter were driven largely by $594.8 million in impairments on oil and gas properties.

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