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Eclipse to Cut Spending As Natural Gas Price Outlook Dims

The grim outlook for natural gas prices, along with management’s desire to protect the balance sheet, has prompted Eclipse Resources Corp. to cut its full year capital expenditures forecast by 20%.

Eclipse is now guiding for $250 million of spending, instead of its initial forecast of $300-320 million. To do so, CEO Benjamin Hulburt said management is considering whether it should participate in an optional third drilling program in Ohio with joint venture partner Sequel Energy Group LLC. The company could also drop one of the two rigs it’s currently running in the third quarter.

“As we continue to analyze our capital plan for the full year 2018, the company intends on taking a disciplined and financially prudent approach designed to preserve our financial strength,” Hulburt said last week when the company released first quarter earnings. “As part of this effort, and in light of the current outlook for natural gas prices, we are lowering our capital expenditures for the second half of the year”

With storage builds expected to increase on a bearish weather outlook in the coming weeks, natural gas prices are facing pressure. Eclipse said the spending cut would lead to a slight reduction in the company’s full year guidance, which is currently 335-355 MMcfe/d.

The company continued to focus on liquids production during the first quarter, with all of its wells during the period coming online in the Marcellus and Utica condensate windows in Ohio. Eclipse forecasted a 42% year/year increase in 2018 condensate production earlier this year.

Eclipse also recently completed drilling its first Utica Shale well in the Flat Castle area, where the company acquired 44,500 net acres last year in north-central Pennsylvania marking its first step outside of Ohio. That well was drilled to a total measured depth of 25,017 feet with a lateral length of 13,857 feet.

Hulburt added that the company brought on a second completions crew during the first quarter to “accelerate completions on our backlog of wells created by our two-rig drilling program.”

Management had little to say about the strategic and financial review to maximize shareholder value that was announced earlier this year, other than to say that process continues. It isn’t clear what exactly the company is considering, but Hulburt has said “all alternatives” are being examined.

The company produced 315.2 MMcfe/d in the first quarter, up from 290 MMcfe/d in the year-ago period and 311.7 MMcfe/d in 4Q2017.

Average prices, including firm transportation costs and cash-settled derivatives, also increased to $3.62/Mcfe during the first quarter from $3.23/Mcfe in 1Q2017. That helped push revenues up over the same time to $110.2 million from $101.9 million.

Eclipse reported a first quarter net loss of $2.6 million (minus 1 cent/share), compared to net income of $26.8 million (10 cents) in the year-ago period.

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