Natural gas producers in the US Southeast are beginning to yield dividends from a bid to reverse declining production in one of the region's seemingly forgotten shale plays.
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Recent data from the Haynesville of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas show production there at its highest since mid-2013. As output continues to rebound from a record low in August 2016, production from the Haynesville is already up by nearly 15%, Platts Analytics data shows.
That spectacular turnaround comes amid a rapid expansion in drilling activity which has rivaled that of even the Utica or the Marcellus. In just 12 months, rig count in the Haynesville has more than tripled.
Leaseholders' renewed devotion to the play comes in spite of relatively weak internal rates of return or IRRs there, which have averaged just 11% over the last year. Those returns have paled in comparison to Appalachian plays where IRRs averaged roughly 14%, in both the Utica and the Marcellus, according to data from Platts Well Economics Analyzer.
But with export demand from the Gulf Coast and Texas expected to grow by nearly 7.5 Bcf/d through 2020, a bid to grow production in the Haynesville could be longer-term play by producers seeking access to neighboring markets that are soon likely to trade at a premium.
SAMPLE PRODUCTION HITS 4-YEAR HIGH
In September, sample production from the Haynesville has surpassed 3.5 Bcf/d. That estimate is up nearly 35% from the same two-week period in 2016 when output was sampled at just 2.6 Bcf/d.
Platts Analytics' Bentek Energy often references sample data to eliminate the noise introduced by grossed-up or modeled production numbers. Sample data however, does not offer an accurate reflection of total production, which is currently estimated at around 4.2 Bcf/d.
Recent growth in output from the Haynesville has accompanied a rapid build in rig count there.
On Friday, Baker Hughes estimated the current count at 44 rigs, down from a three-year high at 45 during the first week of September. Despite this week's slowdown, drilling activity in the Haynesville continues to outpace that of the rival Utica where 30 rigs are currently deployed and is nearly equal to that of the Marcellus where 47 rigs are now in operation.
FORWARD CURVE LIKELY UNDERESTIMATES GROWTH
At an average $3.10/MMBtu the current 12-month forward curve at the Henry Hub, which prices much of the Haynesville?s production, likely understates producer ambitions to grow production there.
According to Platts Well Economics Analyzer, the breakeven price for gas production in the Haynesville stands at an elusive $3.14/MMBtu. Over the next two years, calendar-month forward prices only rise above that level during the cold winter months stretching from December to March.
But with rig counts at current levels, production over the next 24 months is expected to grow by more than 33% surpassing 5.6 Bcf/d by summer 2019, Platts Analytics forecast shows.
And if forward markets are underestimating the price impact of pipeline exports to Mexico and LNG exports to the global market, producers in the Haynesville could stand to profit handsomely from their continued investment there.
--J. Robinson, email@example.com
--Edited by Richard Rubin, firstname.lastname@example.org