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Another Appalachian E&P Startup Secures $800M Equity Commitment

Another Appalachian-focused exploration and production (E&P) company has secured an equity commitment of up to $800 million to lease and operate land in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

American Petroleum Partners (APP) LLC said this month in a press release on its website that it had secured the financing from funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management LLC. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, the company was founded in 2014 to pounce on low-cost land amid the commodities downturn.

"We look forward to working with Apollo to build a low-cost, Appalachia-focused independent E&P business, taking advantage of the current market stress and low commodity price environment," said CEO Varun Mishra, a former Rice Energy Inc. founder. "As a low-cost basin, we believe Appalachia will continue to grow as a source of domestic natural gas supply and provide an attractive environment for well-capitalized new entrants with strong operational expertise."

The company announced the equity commitment on March 18, even though the deal was finalized in September 2015. A company representative told NGI's Shale Daily that APP has had a website for more than a year now, adding that it is not taking questions about its progress at this time and instead referring inquiries to the website and to the recent press release.

APP said it is actively leasing and operating in Belmont, Jefferson and Monroe counties, OH, as well as in Allegheny, Greene and Washington counties, PA, according to its website. The strongest focus, however, appears to be in West Virginia, where the company has targeted Brooke, Marion, Marshall, Monongalia, Ohio and Wetzels counties for land acquisitions and operations.

State records show that APP has secured just two drilling permits for the Utica Shale in Ohio's Jefferson County. Those permits were received in August 2015 and remain listed with a status of "permitted," and not "drilling" or "drilled," as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources specifies in its records.

Among the company's core values, according to its website, is stakeholder relationships, particularly those with landowners.

"Another critical element of APP's success will be land," the company says. "We consider every landowner to be partners in our business and a valuable stakeholder in our success. As a partner in APP, we have a fiduciary responsibility to perform."

APP also says on its website that its founding was "inspired to help remedy many of the failures of our peers," saying heavily indebted operators across the country are sharing the burden with landowners.

"While the broader oil and gas industry is going through a severe downturn, and companies are cutting costs and jobs, we are hiring," APP says in an appeal to landowners on its website. "As some of our peers are reneging on their promises to landowners, i.e. not extending or trying to modify lease terms, APP is building its commitments to effectively help you realize the full potential of your mineral ownership."

That approach isn't uncommon, as new players look to differentiate themselves from the public struggles of some of their more established peers. In December 2015, a group of former EQT Corp. executives announced a $250 million investment for their startup, Lola Energy LLC, which stands for "locally owned, locally accountable." Lola is also acquiring land in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where it plans to focus (see Shale DailyDec. 9, 2015).

Mishra previously worked for former Marcellus heavyweight, EOG Resources Inc., where he oversaw completions of Barnett Shale wells in Texas. He was also in charge of Rice Energy's technical team up until it went public in 2014. Rice's position in the Marcellus and Utica shales has since ballooned to 197,000 net acres.

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