RBN Energy

Friday, 9/30/2022

It’s hard to think of a $5.2 billion acquisition as a “bolt-on,” but that’s what EQT Resources — the U.S.’s #1 natural gas producer — is calling its recently announced purchase of Tug Hill’s gas production assets and XcL Midstream’s pipeline and processing assets in northern West Virginia. The deal, which represents the largest acquisition in the Marcellus/Utica Shale in five years, will not only give EQT even more scale in the nation’s leading gas-and-NGLs production region, it also will lower EQT’s breakeven gas price and its emissions intensity. Oh, and with the deal, EQT is doubling its share-repurchase authorization and increasing its year-end-2023 debt-reduction goal by 60%. In today’s RBN blog, we examine and assess these and other aspects of the agreement.

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Daily energy Posts

Wednesday, 08/31/2022

Champagne corks were popping in E&P boardrooms and executive suites over the past few weeks as they unveiled record-high second-quarter 2022 earnings and cash flows. The strong financial results in the near-idyllic quarter — pre-tax operating earnings and cash flows surged by 29% and 22%, respectively, from the already elevated Q1 2022 levels — were driven by soaring commodity prices and producers’ strict financial discipline. And the celebrations weren’t limited to E&P headquarters. Shareholders have also benefited as companies passed on the unprecedented largess to their investors. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze how U.S. oil and gas producers distributed their soaring free cash flows and discuss the underlying corporate strategies.

Tuesday, 08/23/2022

Out of the long, brutal struggles to create a British nation in the Medieval Ages arose the legend of Camelot, an idyllic kingdom that for a “brief shining moment” enabled its inhabitants to bask in peace and prosperity. In the second quarter of 2022, U.S. oil and gas producers that had, for the last two decades, been roiled with severe price volatility, recession, environmental pressures, investor hostility and a pandemic, finally found their Camelot. Rising oil prices and surging natural gas realizations drove per-unit revenues to a 15-year high, and nearly nine out of 10 of the incremental dollars fell straight to the bottom line as producers successfully wrangled inflation to keep costs under control. The result was E&P coffers overflowing with record earnings and cash flows. However, Camelot, in the words of the 1960 musical, was “a fleeting wisp of glory,” and clouds are emerging on the horizon for U.S. E&Ps in the third quarter. In today’s RBN blog, we catalog Q2 2022 results and preview the issues that could impact third-quarter earnings.

Tuesday, 07/12/2022

Just two years ago, the onset of the pandemic slashed the share prices of many oil and gas producers and the idea of parking cash in a U.S. E&P seemed to make as much sense as leaving your Porsche on a midtown street with the keys in it and the motor running. But times — and commodity prices — have changed, and hydrocarbon producers have transformed themselves into cash-flow-generating machines that attract the sagest investors. Want proof? Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway recently purchased another 10.4 million shares of Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) for over $500 million, bringing its stake in the company to a substantial 16.4%. In today's RBN blog, we detail how the major U.S. E&Ps are allocating their cash flow to keep investors happy.

Sunday, 07/03/2022

We’ve written a lot lately about how U.S. E&Ps, whipsawed over the last decade by extreme price volatility and negative investor sentiment, have adopted a new fiscal discipline that de-emphasizes production growth and prioritizes generation of free cash flow to reduce debt and reward shareholders. But what about midstreamers? They too have been buffeted in recent years by volatile commodity prices, eroding investor support, shifting upstream investment patterns, and finally, a global pandemic. Midstream companies face a different set of challenges than oil and gas producers in repairing their balance sheet and restoring investor confidence, however, mostly because midstream investment decisions are determined both by downstream market changes and by E&Ps’ development and production activity — including producers’ ever-increasing focus on the Permian at the expense of other basins. In the encore edition of today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from RBN and East Daley’s Spotlight Report on Western Midstream Partners and how the master limited partnership has been working to reduce its debt and make the most of its strong base in the Permian’s Delaware Basin.

Tuesday, 06/28/2022

The oil and gas industry has historically been roiled by global economic and political crises, from the oil embargo in 1973 to the Great Recession of 2008 to the onset of the global pandemic in early 2020.  However, amid the economic and political turmoil from the war in the Ukraine, rampant inflation and supply chain disruptions, E&P companies in recent weeks reported strong results for the first quarter of 2022, riding the wave of rising commodity prices as record volumes of cash flowed into corporate coffers. Producers successfully absorbed service cost increases and resisted calls to abandon their profits-focused fiscal discipline to generate Q1 2022 pre-tax operating earnings and cash flows that were up 25% and 12%, respectively, from the two-decade-high results recorded in the last quarter of 2021. In today’s RBN blog, we detail the industry’s outstanding results and preview its performance for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, 06/08/2022

We’ve written a lot lately about how U.S. E&Ps, whipsawed over the last decade by extreme price volatility and negative investor sentiment, have adopted a new fiscal discipline that de-emphasizes production growth and prioritizes generation of free cash flow to reduce debt and reward shareholders. But what about midstreamers? They too have been buffeted in recent years by volatile commodity prices, eroding investor support, shifting upstream investment patterns, and finally, a global pandemic. Midstream companies face a different set of challenges than oil and gas producers in repairing their balance sheet and restoring investor confidence, however, mostly because midstream investment decisions are determined both by downstream market changes and by E&Ps’ development and production activity — including producers’ ever-increasing focus on the Permian at the expense of other basins. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from RBN and East Daley’s Spotlight Report on Western Midstream Partners and how the master limited partnership has been working to reduce its debt and make the most of its strong base in the Permian’s Delaware Basin.

Wednesday, 05/25/2022

The pace of multibillion-dollar M&A activity among oil and gas producers may have slowed a bit from 2020 and 2021, but big deals are still happening. Just last week, publicly held Centennial Resources Development and privately held Colgate Energy Partners III announced plans for a $7 billion “merger of equals” that will combine two midsize E&Ps in the Permian’s Delaware Basin to form one of the area’s larger producers. Each of the companies brings similar and complementary production assets to the deal, as well as corporate leaders very much in sync about the significance of scale in today’s increasingly concentrated upstream sector — and the importance of returning a big chunk of free cash flow to investors. Speaking of investors, an extraordinary 12% stake in the combined Centennial and Colgate will be held by the pro forma company’s management — that’s about 12x the norm among its peers. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the Centennial/Colgate merger and what’s driving the ongoing consolidation in the U.S.’s most prolific hydrocarbon play.

Friday, 04/22/2022

The 43 large U.S. E&Ps that we monitor posted record earnings in 2021 and tripled their cash flow — an extraordinary turnaround from a very tough 2020. But as big a story, at least for investors, is how those oil and gas producers are allocating their surging cash reserves. Their dramatic strategic transformation from growth at any cost to maximizing returns is expected to result in 2022 yields approaching 10% for some E&Ps, rates higher than the much broader S&P 500 sector and more than double the payouts of the oil majors, the former dividend kings. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the cash-flow allocation of the major E&P companies and explain what it means for investors.

Thursday, 04/07/2022

With soaring oil prices dominating recent headlines, it’s no surprise that profits and cash flows for the U.S. exploration-and-production (E&P) sector rebounded dramatically in 2021 from heavy, pandemic-induced losses in 2020. Rising crude oil and natural gas demand fueled a whopping $150 billion turnaround in results, as the 43 major publicly traded E&Ps we monitor recorded $86 billion in pre-tax income after incurring a net loss of $66 billion in 2020. Oh, and by the way, 2021 was the most profitable year in at least the last two decades for producers, which reported income two-thirds higher than the previous peak in 2014, when commodity prices were significantly higher. In today’s RBN blog, we compare producers’ 2021 performance with 2020 and 2014 and explain why results should be even stronger this year.

Sunday, 04/03/2022

The Biden administration’s March 31 announcement that it will release an average of 1 MMb/d of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months was an acknowledgement of sorts that U.S. E&Ps won’t be ramping up their production enough in the near term to bring down oil or gasoline prices. It seems like a good assumption because, while the 40-plus crude oil and natural gas producers we monitor have indicated they are planning a 23% increase in capital spending this year and an 8% increase in production, further examination reveals that those numbers are somewhat misleading — the real gains will be significantly smaller. In today’s RBN blog, we scrutinize producers’ spending plans and production outlooks by peer group and company-by-company.

Monday, 03/21/2022

So far, most of the merger-and-acquisition activity among crude-oil-focused producers in the COVID era has occurred where you would expect it: the Permian, which seems to dominate almost every discussion about the U.S. energy industry. More recently, though, there has been an uptick in E&P consolidation in the Denver-Julesburg Basin in the Rockies and, earlier this month, in the Bakken. There, Whiting Petroleum and Oasis Petroleum — two once-struggling producers — have agreed to a merger of equals that will create the Bakken’s second-largest producer and the largest pure-play E&P. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the companies’ stock-and-cash deal, which will result in a yet-to-be-renamed entity with an enterprise value of about $6 billion.

Thursday, 03/03/2022

Amid all the energy-market excitement of the past few months — the soaring demand for LNG, the march to $100/bbl crude oil, sky-high propane prices, and the like — there also has been a continuing consolidation and repositioning in the U.S. midstream sector. While midstream M&A activity has been all over the map, literally and figuratively, it also has revealed discernible themes, chief among them a push to increase the scale and efficiency of gathering systems. Also evident is the desire to expand into growing production areas and, for some energy giants, to either buy out stakes held by joint venture partners or absorb midstream master limited partnerships they had spun off a few years ago. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss a variety of recent midstream deals and what they tell us about 2022’s energy market.

Monday, 02/14/2022

In the early days of the Shale Revolution, merger-and-acquisition activity in the midstream sector was happening at a frenetic pace. That frenzy peaked with crude oil prices in 2014, then petered out over the next five years before hitting bottom in COVID-impacted 2020, when abysmal demand and commodity pricing hampered prospects for the production and transportation of oil, natural gas and NGLs. In those dark days, it seemed the only deals getting done were for bulk orders of hand sanitizer and toilet paper from Amazon. Now, with energy prices soaring and energy companies regaining some of their pre-pandemic luster, the pace of deal-making in the oil patch in 2022 looks poised to maintain the momentum that carried through the end of 2021. But buying or marketing midstream assets isn’t nearly as simple as ordering through your Amazon Prime account. Considerable effort is put into the strategy of selling and the diligence of purchasing and, for the uninitiated, the process can be daunting. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series on midstream dealmaking with a look at what to expect in a sales process.

Monday, 01/31/2022

Any time there’s a step-change in technology, it presents intrepid industrialists with tremendous opportunities. Just looking at U.S. history, this has played out many times, with railroads, oil, automobiles, computers, and the internet being a few obvious examples. The Shale Revolution provided significant opportunities of its own, not just for the savviest producers but for midstreamers who jumped at the chance to develop the pipelines, gas processing plants, fractionators, and other infrastructure that was desperately needed to transport and process rapidly growing volumes of crude oil, natural gas, and NGLs. Master limited partnerships (MLPs) led the way, boosted by their advantaged access to capital, but they got an important assist from private-equity-backed developers, who were willing to take big risks in the hope of creating successful businesses. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at midstream dealmaking — and midstreamers’ prospective role in the coming lower-carbon economy — this time with a focus on the private equity (PE) side.

Thursday, 01/20/2022

In March 2020, the collapse of the OPEC-plus coalition, the initiation of COVID-19 lockdowns, and other factors pushed the U.S. E&P sector to the brink of insolvency. Crude oil prices had crashed to $20/bbl — one-third their level at the start of that fateful year — and producers had shifted to survival mode, slashing capex, cancelling infrastructure projects, and eyeing new, more dire worst-case scenarios. Who would have thought that only 22 months later E&Ps would be winning back investors and enjoying sky-high share prices? Of course, the recovery in commodity prices played a major role in this reversal. But another driver has been an unexpected wave of corporate consolidation that has allowed many E&Ps to boost their inventories of high-margin assets, accelerate free cash flow generation, and grow shareholder returns while slashing capital and corporate expenditures. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the forces behind — and the implications of — the most important surge of corporate upstream deals in two decades.