A Surprising Winner From the Natural Gas Boom: Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK), EXCO Resources Inc (XCO)

Page 1 of 3

Low natural gas prices have proved to be a major burden for energy companies that derive a substantial portion of their revenue from the out-of-favor commodity. Over the past year or so, most exploration and production companies have curtailed gas drilling and shifted their focus toward oil and natural gas liquids, which are more profitable.

But one subsector within the energy industry has actually benefited handsomely from the depressed state of the natural gas market – the refiners.

Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK)America’s natural gas boom
Recent advances in drilling technology applied to unconventional shale reservoirs have helped ignite what many have termed a “shale gas revolution.” Domestic production has risen steadily, from 19.3 trillion cubic feet (tcf) in 2007, to 20.6 tcf in 2009, to a whopping 22.9 tcf in 2011 – an all-time record. According to recently released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, production last year likely surpassed the 2011 record, with some sources estimating year-end production coming in at 24 trillion cubic feet.

Booming production from sources like Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale and Texas’ Barnett Shale has led to a massive oversupply of natural gas, contributing to severely depressed prices over the past couple of years. Last year, for instance, natural gas spent the entire first half of the year under $3 per thousand cubic feet (mcf), though it rose above that level in the latter half of the year.

Since most gas wells are uneconomical at under $3 per mcf gas, energy companies exited gas drilling in droves last year. For instance, EXCO Resources Inc (NYSE:XCO) cut its rig count in the Haynesville and Marcellus Shales – both prominent natural gas plays – from 18 and four, respectively, as of year-end 2011 to just five and one as of the third quarter 2012.

Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) , the second-largest natural gas producer in the country, also drastically reduced its gas-directed rig count, which stood at less than 10 as of the third quarter, down from nearly 90 in early 2011.

And Linn Energy LLC (NASDAQ:LINE) pretty much went whole hog on a highly prolific oily play, known as the Hogshooter, where it maintained eight rigs as of the third quarter, with wells posting staggering average initial production rates of around 2,100 barrels per day of oil.

With these and other energy producers turning to liquids drilling, it should come as no surprise that the total number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the U.S. fell precipitously over the course of last year, plunging by almost half. While low prices proved to be a major burden for gas producers, cheap natural gas turned out to be a major boon to refining companies.

Refiners’ changing fortunes
Geographically advantaged refining companies were big winners last year, profiting from the wide difference between the price of domestic oil and the price of global oil. Essentially, they were able to purchase cheaper domestic crude oil while selling the refined product at much higher, globally determined prices.

Fourth-quarter earnings among some of the top dogs in the sector were nothing short of spectacular. Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE:VLO) posted earnings of $1.01 billion, the highest in seven years, and up significantly from just $45 million in the year-ago period. Marathon Petroleum Corp (NYSE:MPC) reported earnings of $755 million, a drastic reversal from its $75 million loss in the same quarter last year.

Page 1 of 3
blog comments powered by Disqus
Insider Monkey Headlines
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy

Insider Monkey beat the market by 52 percentage points in 24 months Click to see monthly returns in table format!

Lists

50 Crazy Facts About Japan You Won’t Believe

Top 10 Least Expensive Hybrid Cars to Save the Planet With

The 10 Biggest ‘Gate’ Controversies in History

The 10 States with the Highest Nursing Shortages Leaving Their Hospitals Depleted

The 10 Best Value Investment Blogs that Every Investor Must Read

The 6 Cheapest Boarding Schools in Europe 2015

The 5 Most Expensive Cars To Insure in the World

The 10 Most Common Genetically Modified Foods

10 Self-Made Billionaires Who Came From Nothing

The 10 Most Expensive Cities to Live in North America

The 13 Most Expensive Headphones in the World to Represent

The Top 20 Wealthiest Soccer Teams in 2014

4 BuzzWorthy Cannabis Stocks And Some Smoking Derivative Plays

The 10 Healthiest Fast Food Chains in America to Dine At

The 5 Most Expensive Cat Food Brands You Can Spoil Your Kitty With

The 6 Best eCommerce Platforms for Small Businesses

The 10 Worst Mistakes an Entrepreneur Can Make

The 5 Most OP Characters in League of Legends to Carry Games and Crush Foes With

The 5 Best Foods to Eat Before Running that Will Help You Pound the Pavement

10 Glaring Plot Holes in The Walking Dead that a Zombie-Filled Bus Could Drive Through

The 5 Biggest Celebrity Stoners Who Love Their Reefer

The 10 Most Overrated Movies Of All Time by Out-of-Touch Critics

Top 6 Least Expensive Cruise Destinations For 2015 that Will Take You to Paradise

10 States with Lowest Substance Abuse Rates in America

The 14 Most Watched TV Finales Ever

The 10 Best Selling Role Playing Games of All Time for PC

10 Most Influential Papers In Economics

Top 8 Biggest Charities in the US

10 Worst Celebrity Career Moves Ever

Top 10 Best Paid Tennis Stars in the World

10 Cities with High Demand for Nurses

6 of the Worst Greeting Card Messages Ever Crafted

How to Make Money in ArcheAge and Build Your Empire

10 Foods To Eat To Lower Cholesterol Levels

The 10 Most Hated Television Characters of All Time

The 30 Worst Halloween Costume Ideas Ever Brought to Horrible Life

10 Vocational Skills in Demand Today with Jobs Waiting to be Filled

10 Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

The 10 Greatest Empires in History Which Nearly Conquered the World

The 6 Cheapest Boarding Schools In America 2015

5 Clear Reasons LoL is Better than DotA, Continues to Rule MOBAs

The Only 9 Teams with a Chance to Win the Super Bowl

The 15 Most Common Phobias in America that Induce Fits of Panic

Top 6 Least Expensive Tourist Destinations in 2014

Jim Goetz, Peter Fenton, Jim Breyer: Top 6 Venture Investors for 2014

Top 15 Billionaires in 2014

5 Pitfalls To Avoid When Buying a Franchise

Top 20 Medical Schools in the US – 2014 Rankings

4 Business Strategies that Turned Jamie Oliver into the World’s Richest Chef

6 Qualities That Make You A Good Team Player

Subscribe

Enter your email:

Delivered by FeedBurner

X

Thanks! An email with instructions is sent to !

Your email already exists in our database. Click here to go to your subscriptions

Insider Monkey returned 47.6% in its first year! Wondering How?

Download a complete edition of our newsletter for free!