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PDC Secures Firm Sales for Most Permian Volumes Averting Capacity Pinch

PDC Energy Inc. joined the chorus of operators this earnings season to pacify wary investors on edge about pipeline capacity constraints in the Permian Basin, plugging a key firm sales agreement that ensures an outlet for 85% of the company’s 2018 and 2019 Delaware sub-basin oil production.

The company entered the Permian in 2016 and has worked to steadily grow volumes there since. But as producers have flocked to the prolific field and activity continues to ramp up, takeaway capacity has become squeezed and Permian crude differentials have widened.

PDC, which has Permian operations in Reeves and Culberson counties, TX, this month inked a five-and-a-half year deal with the marketing division of an unspecified “international energy company” for its Delaware volumes to “ensure PDC’s production in the area has a reliable and price-competitive outlet,” CEO Bart Brookman said. Management said the agreement is expected to provide diversification through export market pricing and exposure to Brent-weighted crude prices from volumes sold at a Corpus Christi terminal.

Lance Lauck, executive vice president of corporate development and strategy, said that like the company’s natural gas volumes, the Delaware only represents about a quarter of the company’s overall oil production. “So the impact of a widening differential in the Delaware gets blended in with our overall corporate oil differential, which minimizes the overall corporate impact to the company,” he said.

Even still, the company now expects to realize between 88% and 92% of the benchmark crude price on all its Delaware volumes this year and next.

PDC produced 8.9 million boe in the first quarter, up from 6.6 million boe in the year-ago period and 8.7 million boe in 4Q2017. The Wattenberg Field of Colorado, where the company focuses on the Niobrara and Codell formations in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, continues to drive production. It accounted for 6.9 million boe in the first quarter, while the Delaware accounted for 1.9 million boe.

The rest of the period’s production came from the Utica Shale in Ohio, but the company has since closed on a $40 million sale with an undisclosed buyer to exit that play as it has been increasingly focused on a wetter production mix in recent years.

Oil production increased 51% year/year (y/y) in the first quarter to 3.8 million bbl, representing 43% of total production. As the company enters the second half of the year, Brookman said overall production “should dramatically improve,” and the company expects to exit 2018 producing 130,000 boe/d. The company’s production averaged 99,000 boe/d in the first quarter.

In the Delaware, PDC turned-in-line seven wells during the first quarter, including a mix of Wolfcamp A and B wells that are “delivering positive early production results.” They’re averaging 1,150 boe/d, which the company said is ahead of expectations given that the wells are still on early flowback.

The company’s weighted-average sales price improved to $34.26/boe in the first quarter, compared to $28.53/boe in the year-ago period. Revenue was down to $260.6 million, compared to $273.7 million over the same time.

PDC reported a first quarter net loss of $13.1 million (minus 20 cents/share), versus net income of $46.1 million (70 cents) in 1Q2017. The y/y difference was mainly related to a $47.2 million loss on commodity risk management activities and a $33.2 million impairment of some oil and gas properties.

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