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Ohio gas production surges 39%; Ascent blows away projections

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Ohio gas production surges 39%; Ascent blows away projections

Highlights

Ascent more than doubled production on year

Gulfport currently focused on Oklahoma's SCOOP

Ohio's Utica Shale gas production grew 39% in the third quarter year on year, nearing 7 Bcf/d, driven largely by continued growth in dry gas production from three counties along the state's Ohio River border with West Virginia and the need to fill new pipelines.

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Jefferson, Belmont and Monroe counties accounted for 74% of Ohio's 6.95 Bcf/d of shale gas production in Q3, according to data from the state Department of Natural Resources, while Carroll County, the original home of the Utica, continues to see declines in output.

With the opening or expansion of Energy Transfer Partners' 1.7 Bcf/d Rover Pipeline, Columbia Gas Transmission's 1.5 Bcf/d Leach XPress and the 1.5 Bcf/d DTE Energy Nexus Gas Transmission pipeline, producers had 4.7 Bcf/d of new capacity open in 2018 to markets in the Midwest and Gulf Coast.

Privately held Ascent Resources, with a C-suite stocked with executives who cut their teeth opening the Utica while working at the play's pioneer, Chesapeake Energy, continued to be the state's top producer. Ascent more than doubled its Q3 production year on year in the third quarter, well ahead of its own forecasts. According to a June 2018 presentation Ascent gave to close a $1.5 billion private equity investment, the company hoped to average 1.375 Bcf/d of gas production. In Q3, output topped 1.9 Bcf/d after starting 2018 with 1.2 Bcf/d.

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Gulfport Energy, previously the state's top producer, decided in 2018 to shift its spending south to Oklahoma's SCOOP shale oil and gas play. Its production in Ohio grew 6% year on year in Q3, but that could change in 2019.

Gulfport's longtime CEO, Michael Moore, stepped down at the end of Q3, and the board hired a veteran Appalachian shale executive to take his place. After years at Murphy Oil, incoming CEO David Wood was chairman and CEO at West Virginia driller Arsenal Resources and was a senior adviser at First Reserve, one of the private equity backers of Ascent Resources.

"At Murphy, Mr. Wood strived to bring out a positive change and point the company into the right strategic direction, but it admittedly has been a very difficult company to lead," Stifel Nicolaus shale oil and gas analyst Jane Trotsenko told her clients December 18. "We believe that Gulfport should provide Mr. Wood with a friendlier environment both in terms of assets and management team."

-- Bill Holland, S&P Global Market Intelligence, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com