1 Company Growing in This Risky Shale Play

Gulfport Energy  (NASDAQ: GPOR  ) recently provided investors with an operational update, and some interesting information is tucked within the release. While many of its major competitors are looking to exit entirely or reduce positions in the Utica, Gulfport announced that it's continuing to expand its presence in the play. The company appears to have found the lucrative liquids sweet spot and it's seeking to pick up as much acreage around its core position as it can. 

In the release, Gulfport noted that it had picked up an additional 8,000 gross acres, bringing its total position in the play to about 145,000 acres. That's actually a relatively small position, but it would appear to be right in the middle of the core of the play. For perspective, top Utica leaseholder Chesapeake Energy  (NYSE: CHK  ) is looking to sell 94,000 net acres, which is just about 10% of its total acreage in the play. 

Source: Chesapeake Energy

In fact, Chesapeake isn't the only producer looking to lighten up in the Utica. Devon Energy  (NYSE: DVN  ) is looking to completely unload its 244,000 gross acres, even after signing a joint venture with China's Sinopec on the rest of its acreage. The company hasn't had a whole lot of success thus far, and would rather get what it can for its acreage so that it can reinvest the capital in its core plays, such as the Permian Basin. 

The big problem is that there aren't a lot of buyers, which is the issue that EV Energy Partners  (NASDAQ: EVEP  ) has run into with its own Utica sale. With major players like Chesapeake and Devon exiting, and foreign buyers like Sinopec already securing a foothold in the play, there are few buyers left that are willing to risk capital on a play that's no longer viewed as a sure thing. This has left EV Energy stuck with the 100,000 net acres it has been marketing since last year. The company has chosen to change its marketing strategy to sell the acreage in smaller packages to appeal to more buyers. 

Gulfport, on the other hand, simply has found the best areas to drill, which is why it's buying additional acreage around this core spot. The company's last two wells have produced initial production rates of 2,701 barrels of oil equivalent per day and 2,218 barrels of oil equivalent per day, which is excellent. In fact, Devon points out in its marketing package that its acreage is close to another Gulfport well which produced 1,816 barrels of oil per day and 2,800 thousand cubic feet of natural gas per day. Meanwhile, Devon's own well produced just 448 barrels of oil per day along with 1,203 thousand cubic feet of gas per day. It's Gulfport's outstanding production numbers that are behind its desire to grow, while Devon and others are walking away.

It's still too early to tell if the Utica will develop into another core play like the Eagle Ford and Bakken, which are pushing record oil and natural gas production and revolutionizing the United States' energy position. This is why finding the right plays while historic amounts of capital expenditures are flooding the industry is critical to padding your investment nest egg. For this reason, the Motley Fool is offering a comprehensive look at three energy companies set to soar during this transformation in the energy industry. To find out which three companies are spreading their wings, check out the special free report, "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza". Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free. 


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