A nearly $2 billion natural gas deal could signal a sign that companies are interested in gas drilling again after a long downturn.
Gulfport Energy announced plans to issue new shares in order to finance a $1.85 billion acquisition of acreage in Oklahoma’s SCOOP basin. The SCOOP has emerged as arguably the next most exciting shale play, with acreage still largely undeveloped.
The Marcellus and Utica Shales in Pennsylvania and Ohio have been home to the bulk of the shale gas revolution, although Oklahoma has seen years of shale gas drilling as well. Now with the Marcellus having been poked with tens of thousands of wells, natural gas drillers are moving on to greener pastures. The rig count outside of the handful of major shale basins is now at its highest level in almost a year.
Adding fuel to the fire is the recent rise in natural gas prices, with Henry Hub now up to about $3.60/MMBtu. Natural gas production peaked earlier this year, dipping by about 5 percent. The sector has shown some recent signs of life however, with supplies tightening and demand continuing to rise. The record levels of natural gas inventories are also starting to come down to more reasonable levels, although they remain elevated. Cold weather across the country has added a bit of bullishness to the fuel in recent weeks.
Investors were not exactly keen on the deal, with Gulfport’s share price falling the most in two years on the announcement. Gulfport will issue 29 million shares to pay for the purchase. “It’s a combination of dilution from the transaction and just uncertainty on the strategic direction of the company,” Gordon Douthat, an analyst at Wells Fargo & Co., told Bloomberg in an interview. “It caught people off guard, an acquisition outside their core Utica area.”
It is too soon to tell, but the SCOOP could be the next big thing in shale gas drilling. If that is the case, Gulfport is getting a head start.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com