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Sell Us Some Marcellus!

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Other than extolling XTO Energy's (NYSE: XTO  ) extension into the play, I haven't written too much about the Marcellus shale since it caught my eye back in December. With a regional lease sale just concluded, I figured it's high time we take another look.

After a massive land grab by the likes of Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) and Range Resources (NYSE: RRC  ) , it appears that the easy leasing may be ceasing. You're now seeing companies going to auction and bidding against one another, which can get expensive. And look who showed up with half a dozen high bids alongside resource hound Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC  ) : It's none other than ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) !

Maybe ExxonMobil has been active in Appalachia for a while now, but the firm's interest in Marcellus gas is news to me. With other majors like BP (NYSE: BP  ) already making major onshore moves, it's only a matter of time before ExxonMobil drops a similar bomb. And the giant's not going to cobble its leasehold together in piecemeal fashion. If ExxonMobil's interest in the Marcellus swells, it's going to swallow a leading player whole.

So who's the likely bait? We know that Chesapeake is looking to sell a quarter interest in its massive stake. The only question there is whether Exxon's willing to go splitsies, or needs to have full control. In the latter case, Range Resources and Chief Oil & Gas would seem to be the most natural targets. Chief has already built up and sold a multi-billion dollar asset to Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN  ) in the Barnett Shale, so the privately held firm has already gotten a taste for takeovers.

Granted, it's still extremely early stages in the Marcellus. Range, for instance, has only drilled about two dozen horizontal wells to date. ExxonMobil probably wants to see more results before it really cracks open the checkbook. The company's preliminary interest is a strong tell nevertheless.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Chesapeake is an Inside Value recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (2)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2008, at 6:01 PM, gsricks55 wrote:

    Cheasepeake is actively seeking to monetize its leasehold assets, as its recent deals with BP demonstrate. The whisper is that Cheasepeake is negotiating a 20-25% sale of its Marcellus holding to a large cap player and Conoco Phillips and ExxonMoble are the two names that I have seen mentioned. The entry of a big name into the Marcellus play would probably have two major effects. The first would be to up the asking price for any new leases and the second would be to speed up the build out of the infrastructure which the northeastern part of the play lacks at this time.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2009, at 10:08 PM, WellWishing wrote:

    We have Marcellus for sale! 30,000 acres in the core area - deepest section. Visit us at

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2009, at 10:15 PM, shnafoo wrote:

    There's a lot of evidence that Marcellus drilling poisons ground water. I'd stay away from it until they invent a different cocktail of chemicals for the process...

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