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Spectra Energy OPENs Up The Gulf To Chesapeake Energy

Summary

Weak natural gas prices exacerbated by pricing differentials are weighing heavily against Chesapeake Energy Corporation.

Chesapeake Energy decided to curtail a substantial amount of its Utica natural gas production to eliminate its in-basin sales.

When Spectra Energy's OPEN system is operational, Chesapeake Energy will realize a significant uplift in realized prices as it starts fetching Gulf Coast pricing.

During the first six months of 2015, Chesapeake Energy Corporation's (NYSE:CHK) company-wide average realized unhedged natural price came in at $1.17/Mcf. That was an even lower $0.75/Mcf during the second quarter of 2015. After factoring in hedging gains, that only improved to $1.67/Mcf and $1.01/Mcf, respectively. Last year, Chesapeake Energy was realizing closer to ~$3/Mcf.

One reason for the lackluster pricing stems from Henry Hub moving lower, which is something Chesapeake Energy has little control over. Another reason is due to the lack of takeaway capacity out of the Marcellus and Utica shale plays that are primarily located in Pennsylvania and Ohio. There isn't enough pipeline capacity to move surging NGLs [natural gas liquids] and dry natural gas production out of the area, which is why Chesapeake Energy is banking on new infrastructure projects.

OPEN the Gulf
The average price Chesapeake Energy received for its in-basin Utica natural gas sales was $1.30/Mcf [or ~50%] less than its out of basin sales. With Henry Hub [America's primary natural gas pricing benchmark] trading well below $3 mmBtu, Chesapeake Energy is realizing chump change for its natural gas output.

This prompted Chesapeake Energy to curtail 275 MMcf/d of gross natural gas production out of the Utica play from August to October of this year. That basically eliminated all of Chesapeake Energy's in-basin sales as the company waits for Spectra Energy Corporation's (NYSE:SE) Ohio Pipeline Energy Network [OPEN] system to come online. Spectra's OPEN system will include 76 miles of pipelines, a new compressor station, reverse flow modifications at existing compressor stations along Spectra Energy's Texas Eastern Transmission pipeline system.


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