The Marcellus is Still Full of Natural Gas and These 2 Companies Know It

The Marcellus shale has a lot planned for the future

Jan 2, 2014 at 2:41PM

America is home to the natural gas revolution, with the Marcellus shale holding over 100 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. While reserve estimates have fluctuated immensely, it's best to look at the individual profiles of companies to see what their assets have in store for investors.

200,000 reasons to increase your rig count
Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE:COG) happens to own roughly 200,000 net acres in the Marcellus, with six rigs up and running in the area. Due to Cabot Oil & Gas' success with its downspacing projects, it plans to increase its rig count to seven this year.

An additional rig, combined with drilling efficiencies, is going to allow Cabot to complete 30-40 more wells in the Marcellus this year than it did last year. What makes this even better is that Cabot Oil & Gas has been able to reduce well completion costs by $600,000 per well by drilling ten wells on a pad versus just two.

Cabot is an industry leader in the area, and is part of the reason why the Marcellus will keep pumping out more and more natural gas each year. To add more fuel to the fire, US natural gas prices have rallied from under $2 million British thermal unit, or mmBtu, to over $4, creating a better economic reason to increase output.

To further justify expanding drilling operations, Cabot Oil & Gas is going to drill 60% of its wells on pads with five or more wells this year, versus just 23% in 2013. By completing more wells per pad, Cabot will be able to drive free cash flow growth through lower completion costs.

Can't do it alone
As Cabot grows its production by around ~40% this year, it will need additional gas processing capacity to be able to sell its production. Luckily for Cabot Oil & Gas, MarkWest Energy Partners (NYSE:MWE) has big plans for the Marcellus.

Might as well order a double
As of 2013, MarkWest Energy Partners could process 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, but through eight expansion projects, MarkWest will be able to process 3.7 Bcf/d in the region within the next few years.

Why is MarkWest Energy Partners betting big on Pennsylvania? Because key operators in the area, such as Cabot Oil & Gas, are guiding for high double digit output growth on an annual basis from the Marcellus for a while. MarkWest Energy Partners sees a great opportunity to capitalize on volume growth, and has set out a plan in order to do so.

Don't bet on just one horse
Times may be great if the segment you're operating in is booming, but what about during the bad times? In order to diversify away from just dry gas, MarkWest Energy Partners is also adding to its presence in the natural gas liquids space.

By adding an additional 96,000 bpd of fractionation capacity (aka NGL processing capacity) in the Marcellus, MarkWest will be able to generate cash flow from two different hydrocarbons. On top of expanding NGL processing capacity, MarkWest is also improving and extending its NGL gathering system with an emphasis on ethane.

Foolish conclusion
Cabot Oil & Gas is betting its future on the Marcellus, and the combination of more output, higher natural gas prices, and lower well completion costs will surely drive earnings higher.

On the other front, MarkWest Energy Partners sees an opportunity to be a major player in the natural gas revolution and has laid down a plan to cash in. Investors should feel confident in MarkWest's future, as it has found a path to boost distributable cash flow.

The American energy boom is happening outside of the Marcellus too

Record oil and natural gas production is revolutionizing the United States' energy position. Unfortunately, identifying the winning investments isn't always easy. Thankfully, the Motley Fool is offering you a free, comprehensive look at three energy companies set to soar during this transformation in the energy industry in our 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. 

Callum Turcan has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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