Will production declines expected to stem from the recent rashof producer spending cuts (see related story) lend support to gasprices this year? Well that’s just one of several questions on theminds of analysts as they speculate on what the market will grantproducers this year. While there’s not a consensus, the generalmood seems to be pessimistic.
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Texaco joined the growing crowd of producers revising downwardcapital expenditures for 1999. The company said its 1999 capexwould total $3.7 billion, including subsidiaries and affiliates,down $600 million from its original $4.3 billion plan. Chevron,Arco and Unocal announced similar reductions last month.
The recent rash of producer spending cuts (see related story)comes at a time when the message on prices from the analystcommunity is pretty gloomy, too. “There’s not much holding [gasprices] up,” said Thomas J. Woods, Ziff Energy vice president forU.S. Gas Services. Woods said Ziff has been warning its clientsthat current prices are not supportable. “We had put out some earlywarnings in July when prices first frayed, and we said that therewas a very significant possibility that this would go [on].”
It looks like bears are roaming the market woods for the holidayseason, said a producer noting new softness in both futures andcash prices Friday. No nay-sayers to her assessment could be foundas sources agreed that weather and storage fundamentals continue tolook weak for the foreseeable future, barring a surprise blizzardor two. A marketer said he “wouldn’t be surprised if we end up withDecember indexes looking a lot like November’s.”
The producer who expected Midcontinent prices to be back aroundNovember indexes “fairly soon” (see Daily GPI, Nov. 3) didn’t havelong to wait. In fact, he underestimated the cash market as biggains across the board-except for intra-Alberta-Tuesday carriednearly all points back to index levels or higher. Rises between 15and 35 cents dominated the market.
Mobil is yet another major producer hit by lower oil and gasprices in the third quarter. Despite cost reduction efforts,earnings were off sharply. Mobil reported third quarter 1998estimated operating earnings of $497 million, a decline of $410million, or 45%, from the record $907 million earned in the sameperiod last year. Net income declined 43% to $509 million from $892million in the third quarter of 1997. “This quarter saw virtuallyall of our businesses experience sharp declines in industryfundamentals,” said CEO Lucio A. Noto. “Despite our self-helpefforts, earnings and cash generation are down significantly thisyear.”
The Coastal Corp benefited from its mix of producer and pipelineoperations, announcing a 17% jump from 3Q 1997 on a per-sharebasis. Coastal earned $89.5 million, or 41 cents/share, compared to$80.4 million, or 35 cents/share in 3Q 1997. Along with earnings,the company reiterated its commitment to the North American gassector, calling it the best energy investment opportunity anywhere.
Independent power producer Calpine Corp. acquired Dow Chemical’s70 MW gas-fired power plant at Dow’s Pittsburg, CA, chemicalfacility for about $13 million. The deal includes Dow’s gaspipeline system that provides the plant with low-cost fuel fromSacramento basin gas fields. Key to the transaction is Calpine’splan to build a 500 to 700 MW gas-fired power plant adjacent toDow’s Pittsburg chemical plant. The new power plant will requirecapital of $250 million to $350 million and will generate enoughelectricity to power half a million households. The existing plantuses 16,000 MMBtu/d, and the new plant will use 80,000 to 90,000MMBtu/d.
In a transaction making it the largest independent powerproducer in Texas, Calpine Corp. acquired the remaining 50% interest in Texas Cogeneration Co. (TCC), owner of two gas-firedpower plants in Texas City and Pasadena, TX, with 827 MW ofcapacity. Calpine of San Jose, CA, bought the remaining interest inTCC from Dominion Cogen Inc. for about $53 million, plus contingentpurchase payments beginning in 2000 that could approximate 2.9% ofproject revenue. As part of the deal, Calpine now owns a 7.5%interest in a 165 MW gas-fired cogeneration plant located inBayonne, NJ. Calpine Fuels Texas, a subsidiary of Calpine, buys gasfor the Texas plants from Enron Capital & Trade Resources(ECT). In a related transaction, Calpine Fuels Texas paid about$105 million to ECT to restructure its existing gas contracts.