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Drillers Keep Producing Gas in West Virginia and Ohio

Photo by Casey Junkins Natural gas industry employees work at the Transload Solutions site in Benwood. Truckers load sand, gravel and other materials at the site.

WHEELING — Despite the February Belmont County well blast that allowed methane to leak into the atmosphere for 19 days, XTO Energy helped parent firm, Exxon Mobil, post earnings of $4.7 billion for the first three months of 2018.

Moreover, Marcellus and Utica shale drillers such as Chevron, Southwestern Energy Co., CNX Resources, EQT Corp. and Antero Resources continued to grow natural gas yields in the first quarte. Some firms posted records for earnings and/or production.

“Increased commodity prices, coupled with a focus on operating efficiently and strengthening our portfolio, resulted in higher earnings and the highest quarterly cash flow from operations and asset sales since 2014,” said Exxon Chairman and CEO Darren W. Woods.

Via its XTO subsidiary, Exxon drills Marcellus and Utica shale wells throughout eastern Ohio. Much of the company’s work is in the southern half of Belmont County. Another driller with significant operations in this area is EQT Corp., which completed an $8.2 billion acquisition of Rice Energy last year.

Pittsburgh-based EQT posted a loss of nearly $1.6 billion during the first three months of 2018, which compares to earnings of $164 million for the same time last year.

Despite the loss, EQT sold 357 billion cubic feet of natural gas during the quarter, which is up from the 190 Bcf during the same period in 2017.

According to Cabot Oil & Gas, 1 Bcf is enough energy to provide electricity for 24,315 homes for an entire year.

Denver-based Antero Resources remains in a similar predicament as EQT in that profits fell, while production grew. The company saw its earnings fall from $268 million during the first three months of 2017 to $15 million in the same period this year but also saw production grow by 11 percent year-over-year.

“We are off to a strong start in 2018 with record first quarter results that delivered strong cash flow growth during the quarter,” said Antero Chairman and CEO Paul Rady. “Furthermore, the ongoing liquids focus in the Marcellus and strong production performance in the Utica Shale during the quarter boosted results.”

The liquids Rady mentioned include ethane, propane, butane, isobutane and pentane. The presence of ethane is one of the main drivers behind the effort to build a $10 billion petrochemical plant in Belmont County.

Global oil giant Chevron maintains wells in Marshall County. The San Ramon, California-based firm posted earnings of $3.6 billion in the first quarter, an increase of $900 million from the same time last year.

“First quarter earnings and cash flow improved significantly from a year ago,” said Chevron Chairman and CEO Michael Wirth. “We benefited from growing production and higher prices.”

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based CNX Resources is now a fully independent company after last year’s spinoff from Consol Energy. The driller grew earnings from $39 million in the first three months of last year to $528 million during the period this year. Natural gas sales also grew from 95 Bcf last year to 129.5 Bcf from Jan. 1-March 31 this year.

Meanwhile, Southwestern Energy Co. now controls virtually all horizontal shale wells in Ohio and Brooke counties. The firm, based near Houston, Texas, posted earnings of $255 million during the first quarter this year, slightly down from the $266 million during the 2017 period. In Appalachia, natural gas production grow by 29 percent, year-to-year.

“We delivered a strong start to the year, meeting or exceeding all commitments for the quarter,” said Southwestern President and CEO Bill Way. “Momentum from growing liquids production and relentless delivery of operational and technical excellence, combined with our new credit facility, will improve margins in 2018 and into the future.”


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