Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) today provided an update on additional steps it is taking to continue creating shareholder value in response to the lowest natural gas prices in the past 10 years.
First, Chesapeake plans to further reduce its operated dry gas drilling activity by 50% to approximately 24 rigs by the 2012 second quarter from 47 dry gas rigs currently in use and by 67% from an average of approximately 75 dry gas rigs used during 2011. Chesapeake’s operated dry gas drilling capital expenditures in 2012, net of drilling carries, are expected to decrease to $0.9 billion, a decrease of approximately 70% from similar expenditures of $3.1 billion in 2011. This anticipated level of dry gas drilling capital expenditures is the company’s lowest since 2005. Specifically, during the 2012 second quarter, Chesapeake plans to have reduced its drilling activity in both the Haynesville and Barnett shales to six operated rigs each and to 12 operated rigs in the dry gas area of the Marcellus Shale in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Second, the company plans to immediately curtail approximately 0.5 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day, or 8%, of its current operated gross gas production of 6.3 bcf per day, which is about 9% of the nation’s natural gas production. If conditions warrant, the company is prepared to double this production curtailment to as much as 1.0 bcf per day. In addition, wherever possible, Chesapeake plans to defer completions of dry gas wells that have been drilled but not yet completed, and also plans to defer pipeline connections of dry gas wells that have already been completed.
As a result of lower drilling and completion activity and production curtailments in the Haynesville and Barnett shales, Chesapeake projects that its combined gross operated gas production in these plays will decline during 2012. Because the Haynesville and Barnett shales have accounted for virtually all of the nation’s approximate 14 bcf per day of gas production growth during the past five years, lower production in these two plays will likely lead to flat or lower total natural gas production in the U.S. in 2012.