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Range Resources Corp (NYSE:RRC)
Q1 2021 Earnings Call
Apr 27, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Welcome to the Range Resources First Quarter 2021 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Statements made during this conference call that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. [Operator Instructions]

At this time, I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Laith Sando, Vice President, Investor Relations at Range Resources. Please go ahead, sir.

Laith Sando -- Vice President-Investor Relations

Thank you, operator. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining Range's First Quarter Earnings Call. The speakers on today's call are Jeff Ventura, Chief Executive Officer; Dennis Degner, Chief Operating Officer; and Mark Scucchi, Chief Financial Officer. Hope you've had a chance to review the press release and updated investor presentation that we've posted on our website. You will also find our 10-Q on Range's website under the Investors tab, or you can access it using the SEC's EDGAR system. Please note, we'll be referencing certain non-GAAP measures on today's call. Our press release provides reconciliations of these to the most comparable GAAP figures. For additional information, we've posted supplemental tables on our website to assist in the calculation of EBITDAX, cash margins, and other non-GAAP measures.

With that, let me turn the call over to Jeff.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you, Laith, and thanks, everyone, for joining us on this morning's call. The first quarter of 2021 saw Range made continued progress toward our key strategic objectives, improving margins through cost controls and thoughtful marketing, generating free cash flow, enhancing liquidity and extending our maturity profile, operating safely and efficiently, and ultimately positioning the company to return capital to shareholders as the most efficient natural gas and NGL producer in Appalachia. I'll touch briefly on each of these before turning it over to Dennis and Mark to cover in more detail.

I'll start with unit costs and margin improvements. Range's unit costs for the quarter were right on track and ahead of our expectations with G&A, LOE, exploration expense, and production taxes, coming in at the low end of our guidance and expectations. Additionally, we reported a significant gain in our marketing activities for the quarter. As expected, GP&T increased versus the prior quarter but was more than offset by the significant improvements we saw in NGL and natural gas realizations, resulting in the vast improvements to Range's margins. In fact Range's unhedged realized price for the quarter was approximately $3.20 per mcfe, which was $0.51 above the NYMEX Henry Hub equivalent price of $2.69. This premium to Henry Hub is a result of our diversified marketing portfolio and liquids production. This liquids uplift improve margins and reduces Range's breakeven costs when compared to producing only dry gas.

In fact Range's pre-hedge margin improved by over $1 per mcfe in the first quarter when compared to the 2020 average. Given the improved fundamental backdrop for natural gas liquids with approximately 65% of our activity in the liquids-rich window this year, Range is very well positioned to continue to benefit from this dynamic. During the quarter, Range was also able to benefit from improved daily prices in the natural gas market, realizing a natural gas differentials that was $0.08 better than the midpoint of guidance only partially offset by higher transportation fuel costs, again benefiting margins and cash flow. On the back with this improved pricing, Range generated $193 million in cash flow from operations before changes in working capital, and with capital spending, coming in at just $105 million for the quarter, Range generated solid free cash flow.

As shown on slide 14, we expect this to continue with significant growth in EBITDAX this year versus last. When combined with absolute debt reduction, this organic free cash flow generation puts us well on our way toward our longer-term balance sheet targets. Touching on the all-in capital investment of $105 million on the quarter, it's clear that the team's operational execution was superb. And we continue to find ways to lower costs, once again leveraging our large contiguous acreage position to find ways to complete the operational plan with peer-leading capital efficiency.

After delivering on operational plans below budget for the last three years, Range remains on track to do the same for the fourth consecutive year in 2021. The operational team safely delivered this capital-efficient plant with an eye toward our long-term environmental goals. Range closed out 2020 with class-leading emissions intensity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity and putting us right on track toward our 2025 goal of net-zero. As we strive for this goal, it all starts with efficient operations that minimize our operating footprint and importantly, generates competitive returns. We believe Range's peer-leading capital efficiency and maintenance capital are key differentiators among peers.

As we've discussed in the past, Range's large blocky acreage position affords us operational and financial efficiencies on multiple fronts including water recycling, infrastructure, rig mobilization, and equally optimization, just to name a few. Dennis will cover a good example of how this combination of these benefits, benefit range from both an ongoing development and corporate return standpoint in addition to strengthening our environmental efforts.

When combining our low well costs, strong recoveries, and shallow base decline of under 20%, Range is operating at a high level of capital efficiency that provides a solid foundation for generating sustainable free cash flow, what further differentiate Range is our ability to deliver this level of efficiency for an extended period of time giving our multi-decade core inventory.

For some added context on our inventory, Range is turning to sales approximately 60 wells this year, but we have approximately 2,000 Marcellus locations with EURs that are greater than 2 Bcfe per 1,000 foot of lateral. The average recovery of these wells is very similar to the wells Range has turned to sales for the last several years providing Range an unmatched runway of high-quality wells that's measured in decades. This is not the case for many of our peers, which we believe positions Range as well as any upstream company to benefit from improving commodity price environment over the medium and long-term.

Before turning it over to Dennis and Mark, I'll just reiterate that Range remains committed to sustainable free cash flow. Over time, we believe Range will stand out among peers as a result of our low sustaining capital, competitive cost structure, marketing strategies, and importantly our multi-decade core inventory life, which will be an increasing competitive advantage in the years to come as other operators exhaust their core inventories. We will continue to focus on safe, efficient, and environmentally sound operations, prudent capital allocation, and generating sustainable returns to shareholders. Importantly, these are all reflected in our updated compensation metrics that can be found in our most recent proxy statement. They've also been summarized in our company presentation, demonstrating the alignment of our incentive programs with shareholders, as we seek to continue our steady progress toward key initiatives.

Over to you, Dennis.

Dennis L. Degner -- Range Resources Corporation

Thanks, Jeff. When we communicated the operational details for our 2021 program, our framework was built around improving both operational and capital efficiencies, enhancing margins, all while striving to further improve our environmental and safety performance. As we look at our first quarter results, our operating teams are off to a strong start delivering on our objectives for the year, beginning with Q1 production above our communicated guidance and capital spending in line with our 2021 plan.

First quarter capital spending came in at $105 million or approximately 25% of our 2021 program budget. As we discussed on the prior call, our capital spending program is front-end loaded for the year and is a consistent approach with previous years. As we look forward, our second quarter capital spending is expected to be approximately one-third of the annual budget for the year, mainly driven by activity timing for completions and turn in lines shifting to Q2.

The reduced capital investments in the second half of 2021 are aligned with our activity cadence reducing to one drilling rig and one frac crew during the third and fourth quarters. Our first quarter production level of 2.08 Bcf equivalent per day was a direct result of recent strong well results combined with exceptional field run time for the quarter due in large part to the near flawless winter operations planning and execution by our production operations team. Underpinning our first quarter production including turning to sales, 16 wells spread across are dry, wet, and super-rich acreage.

Our Q1 turn-in lines consisted of an average horizontal length in excess of 11,500 feet and added just under 200,000 producing lateral feet to Range's Appalachia assets. During the fourth quarter of last year, through the first quarter of 2021, our activity shifted toward wells located across our processable gas footprint. The results of these turn-in lines increased Range's average oil production to a level exceeding 8,000 barrels per day in Q1 and, has increased overall liquids production in similar levels seen during the first half of 2020. This level of wet production contribution is expected to continue through the end of this year with second quarter production projected at approximately 2.1 Bcfe per day. This will position us to achieve our 2021 maintenance target of 2.15 Bcfe per day through additional margin enhancing liquids production while spending $425 million or less.

Shifting to our operational highlights. During the first quarter, 15 wells were drilled across our dry, wet, and super-rich footprint. Four of these wells are in the top 20 lateral links for Range's Marcellus program history with all four exceeding 17,800 feet. Drilling efficiencies continued with nearly three-quarters of the new wells drilled on pads with existing production, coupled with a 5% increase in daily lateral footage drilled compared to 2020.

On the completion side, 16 wells were completed during the quarter. Overall, the team completed just under 1,200 frac stages while setting a first quarter winter operations efficiency record by averaging over eight frac stages per day. This efficiency level exceeds Range's previous best first quarter in winter operations record by 14%.

The water operations team built upon prior water recycling successes by utilizing nearly 2 million barrels of third-party produced water, a first quarter record and as a result, reduced overall completion costs for the quarter by more than $4.5 million. Despite cold weather conditions and heavy snowfalls, the team produced some of our best operational results in our program to date. All while keeping safety and environmental performance at the forefront.

Lease operating expense for the first quarter was consistent with our prior year's Appalachia level and remained low at $0.09 per Mcfe. Achieving this LOE level is in large part due to a well-coordinated proactive winter operations plan with the objective of minimizing weather-related production impacts and associated costs. These efforts generated a field runtime that exceeded 99% with a weather-related production impact of less than 0.5 million cubic feet per day for the quarter, a remarkable achievement.

Looking at the operational successes and milestones achieved during the first quarter, involves a focused, continuous improvement approach, and it's anchored by four key areas. Range's water recycling program, long lateral development, utilization of existing infrastructure, and lastly optimize the use of drilling and completions equipment. Each of these are key drivers in delivering on our operational and capital efficiency and our integrated part of achieving our ESG or more specifically our environmental objectives. We often touch on the benefits each of these bring to our program ranging from a reduction in operating costs, efficiency gains, minimizing our environmental footprint, and reductions in emissions.

Today, I'd like to take a moment and walk through how these four strategies are being implemented by our operations and support teams along with the positive impacts. I'll use three of the wells that were turned to sales in the first quarter as an example. These three wells were drilled on an existing surface location with producing wells that were originally developed and turn to sales in 2013. The average lateral length of the original wells was just over 3,000 feet per well.

In stark contrast, the average lateral length of the new wells is nearly 16,000 feet per well, more than 5 times longer. No additional earth disturbance was needed for 5 times the acreage development and no additional production, gathering, and processing infrastructure was required to add these new wells.

To put this into perspective, Range has close to 250 developed pads in Southwest PA and as of today, we've returned 84 of these locations to drill additional wells. Additional wells are planned for these same pad sites along with the approximate other two-thirds of Range's pads that we've yet to return to for added activity. Simply put, we're only scratching the surface of this opportunity.

The three new wells were completed late last year, utilizing our contracted electric fracturing fleet which displaced 470,000 gallons of diesel fuel. This reduced our cost by approximately $300,000 per well along with large reductions and associated emissions. 40% of the water used to complete these new wells was recycled water from Range's producing wells along with third-party water, sourced from our water sharing process. The balance of the water was pumped from our water pipeline network, which was installed nearly a decade ago, further reducing emissions associated with truck traffic by more than 13, 400 truck trips.

The average initial production of these wells exceeded 44 million cubic feet equivalent per day including more than 9,700 barrels per day of combined condensate and natural gas liquids per well, placing them in the top tier of wells in our Marcellus program history. This is just one of many examples we could share from our development during the past several years with results such as this.

These efforts have underpinned our operational efficiency gains and give us confidence in the durability around keeping our drilling complete cost below $600 per foot, all while achieving our environmental goals and producing best-in-class wells. These benefits highlight the importance and value of having a high- quality contiguous acreage position and forward-thinking technical team.

Before moving on to marketing, I'd like to touch on Range's environmental and safety performance. To further reduce production facility emissions, in 2020, Range transitioned to a quarterly leak detection program doubling the number of inspections conducted. As a result of this increased inspection frequency, an additional 7,400 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions was removed from our program, resulting in a 67% reduction for those related components. This effort along with the continued advancements in our production facility design and utilization of an electric frac fleet has resulted in further reductions in Range's reported emissions, reaching a new low CO2 equivalent level.

This level of performance is competitive with any natural gas play in North America and puts Range in an enviable position globally. Consistent with our environmental results, Range's safety performance saw similar improvements delivering an over 30% improvement in recordable incidents for the quarter, which was the best Q1 performance versus the prior five years.

Switching to marketing, Range's NGL and condensate business benefited from a strong first quarter. Market prices improved across the board and our advantaged portfolio of contracts enabled Range to capture premium pricing and a pre-hedge NGL realization in Q1, that was the highest level since late 2018. The primary driver for improved pricing across both NGLs and condensate was strong demand in a market that saw decreased supply. Preliminary results for US propane and butane or LPG reveal that Q1 2021 domestic demand was 13% higher year-on-year while supply decreased by 4%. Similarly, condensate supply in the Northeast is estimated to have decreased by 15% to 20% year-on-year. As a result of these improved fundamentals, the market average NGL barrel price improved significantly during the quarter. At $24.83 per barrel, Range's Mont Belvieu equivalent barrel was at 38% over the prior quarter and 83% compared to the first quarter of 2020.

Propane prices led the way, increasing nearly 60% versus the prior quarter and 140% versus Q1 of 2020. Additionally Range's premium to a Mont Belvieu equivalent barrel increased by approximately $1.50 per barrel versus the prior quarter as Range realizes this highest premium to Mont Belvieu in the company's history.

Looking forward, we see propane and butane market prices continuing to post strong year-on-year gains as storage balances of these NGLs are much tighter relative to last year. This past winter, propane posted its largest seasonal withdrawal and well over a decade, leaving the end of March propane stocks at a 33% deficit to last year and a 17% deficit to the five-year average.

Given the strong international demand that we are seeing with new chemical capacity coming online and recovering global economies, we believe it will be challenging for propane to replenish US stocks to a comfortable level by fall. As a result, we expect propane prices to transact at levels at or above 60% of WTI crude this fall and the upcoming winter.

On the commercial side, beginning April 1st, Range entered into a set of new and diverse LPG export-related contracts. These contracts will add flexibility, reduce cost and further enhance realized propane and butane prices continuing Range's momentum of achieving strong price premiums, relative to the market.

Finally, we continue to optimize Range's condensate sales portfolio by adding flexibility, improving margins, and assuring product placement. As this year progresses and optimization continues via a diverse set of counterparties, we expect that our condensate differentials to WTI will continue to improve, further benefiting our liquids area development plan discussed earlier in the call.

On the natural gas side, cold weather during mid-Q1 equated to the third coldest February, when looking at the past 10 years. And despite milder conditions in both January and March, Q1 gas weighted heating degree days finished slightly above the five-year average. Through utilization of our diverse transportation portfolio, Q1 resulted in a differential of $0.14 under NYMEX, including basis hedging.

Looking ahead, we see potential for additional positive improvements for natural gas pricing, given that a high percentage of operators are targeting maintenance production levels this year, coupled with year-over-year improvements in storage, the fundamentals point toward an undersupplied natural gas market. Within this constructive outlook for natural gas, Range is on track with its differential guidance of $0.30 to $0.40 for the year.

As we close out our operations and marketing updates, the first quarter results clearly reflect our operations are off to a strong start for the year with the team further building on our operational and capital efficiency performance, all while delivering on our environmental and safety objectives.

I'll now turn it over to Mark to discuss the financials

Mark S. Scucchi -- Senior Vice President-Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Dennis. Consistent delivery on stated objectives, that is Range's fundamental strategy. And as you've heard from Jeff and Dennis something the team successfully executed during the first quarter; efficient operations delivering production, efficient drilling and completions activity with capital spending trending in line to better than budget, combined with margin enhancing expense management, all resulted in significant free cash flow. Our ultimate goal is to repeat this quarter in and quarter out.

Results for the first quarter reflect the benefits of reliable operations, productive wells, and diversity in sales points for natural gas, natural gas liquids, and condensate. Cash flow from operations before working capital was $193 million compared to $105 million in capital spending. Significant improvements in free cash flow compared to past periods were driven by a 50% improvement in pre-hedge realized prices per unit of production versus the prior-year period, which reached $3.20 per mcfe in the first quarter. This realized price per unit is $0.51 above NYMEX Henry Hub, driven by improved natural gas basis and importantly further enhanced by a 77% increase in NGL price per barrel, which reached $26.35 pre-hedge.

Realized NGL price on Mmcfe [Phonetic] basis equates to $4.39 per mcfe and condensate realizations equate to $8.17 per mcfe. Hence the realized premium to Henry Hub. Additionally, Range's NGL prices exceeded a Mont Belvieu NGL barrel by $1.52 due to our unique portfolio of domestic and international sales contracts. Margin enhancing focus on unit cost is a constant state of mind for Range.

Lease operating expenses declined over 40% year-over-year to $0.09 per unit on the back of consistent, efficient, Marcellus operations, despite the winter weather and the divestiture of higher-cost assets. Cash G&A expenses declined to $28 million or $0.15 per unit in the first quarter. The decline results primarily from lower compensation costs of a leaner organization, coupled with targeted value-focused spending on IT, data services, safety, environmental, and other essential areas. Cash interest expense was roughly $55 million. Higher interest expense is the result of our most recent refinancing activity, which dramatically and positively reshaped the debt maturity profile of the company and enhanced liquidity.

Gathering, processing, and transportation expense increased, but it is important to keep in mind that this is a positive byproduct of strong NGL prices that resulted in significantly higher NGL margins. Recall that Range's processing costs are the percent of proceeds contracts such that we pay a percentage of NGL revenues as the fee. Consequently, a fraction of the material higher prices received for NGLs is paid as higher processing cost in that quarter.

For perspective, an increase of $1 per NGL barrel equates to approximately $0.01 per mcfe and cost. This structure is unique to range in the Appalachian Basin and is a right way risk arrangement that has led to reduce costs for several quarters of lower prices and now continues to drive material margin expansion. As a result of rising NGL prices in recent months, GP&T expense in 2021 is trending toward the high end of guidance. However, this is more than offset by expected higher NGL revenue, forecasted at current strip pricing relative to earlier this year.

Turning to the balance sheet, Range has diligently and successfully managed the debt profile, such that liability management projects reduced bond maturities through 2024 by almost $1.2 billion while at the same time improving liquidity to nearly $2 billion. During the first quarter, we issued new bonds due 2029 in the amount of $600 million, which combined with the reaffirmation of our facilities, $3 billion borrowing base and $2.4 billion in commitments provide substantial liquidity and a strong evidence of what we believe is durable asset value.

Cash flows are expected to retire debt maturities in coming years and are backstopped by ample liquidity. During the first quarter, we called in $63 million in near-term maturities of senior and senior subordinated notes closing on the redemption in early April. There has been substantial improvement in the debt markets, and it's evident in the trading levels of Range's bonds that both access to and cost of capital has improved.

Future debt retirement is expected to be funded primarily by organic free cash flow. We will be cost-conscious in effectively managing debt retirement, while also being mindful of any potential refinancing risk of debt maturities. Being opportunistic in bond redemptions, this prices in early redemption options become economic on a risk-adjusted basis.

Liability management over the last two years has as expected temporarily increased interest expense, however, this avoided much higher cost forms of capital that would have diluted shareholder ownership and participation, and what we see is a steadily improving natural gas and natural gas liquids business. While we're proud of the steps taken to date, further improving our balance sheet remains a principal objective. As can be seen in the recently filed proxy, leverage metrics have been incorporated into long-term compensation criteria with the target of 1.5 times debt to EBITDA were better.

Shareholder value creation through the generation of free cash flow and its prudent redeployment is our focus. To be clear, we believe this is an achievable goal. At current commodity prices by the end of 2022, Range's leverage is approaching target levels.

On the topic of hedging, we have a glide path or common range in which we add positions over the course of the year. Within that path, we intentionally moved at a deliberate pace during 2020, as we added 2021 hedge positions. We plan to follow similar principles this year in adding hedges for 2022 and beyond. By that I mean, we'll seek to balance the twin goals of prudently derisking cash flows while not hedging away the improved supply demand balance into backward dated price curves. Our strategic actions over the last three years have been focused on reducing risk while maintaining and enhancing the intrinsic value of the asset base.

We believe Range holds the largest portfolio of quality inventory in Appalachia. Exposure to that inventory on a per-share basis has been preserved and enhanced by our actions. We believe steps taken represent material progress in positioning Range as a more resilient business and as evidenced by first quarter results primed to participate in improved market dynamics.

Jeff, back to you.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Operator, we'll be happy to answer questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you, Mr. Ventura. The question-and-answer session will now begin. [Operator Instructions] Our first question will come from the line of Josh Silverstein from Wolfe Research. You may begin.

Josh Silverstein -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks. Good morning, guys. You mentioned on the --

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Good morning.

Josh Silverstein -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Good morning. Thanks, Jeff. You mentioned on the 2022 outlook getting down to 2 times leverage or below there by the end of the year, you mentioned that the gas price and crude oil price assumption in there. Can you talk about what, what you're thinking about from an NGL price assumption standpoint and should we still be thinking about the, like the 2.15 Bcfe a day and $425 million spend?

Mark S. Scucchi -- Senior Vice President-Chief Financial Officer

All right. Good morning, Josh, this is Mark. I think the best place to reference is slide 14 in the debt to talk through some of the points you just made. As we've laid out to illustrate the cash flow generating ability of the business and the follow-on, the deleveraging power of the business as it stands today, there is a chart in there, as you point out gets us 2 times or below 3 times leverage by the end of this year at current strip pricing and if you assume a $2.85 natural gas, $60 oil price from next year, which is really just removing the backwardation of the curve, it really is just doing a mirror of this year's curve. You get to your point of below 2 times leverage-type situation.

The NGL assumption is roughly $25 per barrel. In other words, if you just look at NGL strip pricing for 2021 that gets you to $24.80 give or take and you're carrying that forward into next year. So in essence, we're not using an aspirational price deck here, we're just trying to mimic '22, looking like 2021. The assumption here in terms of capital is a flat spend as a maintenance type case, there is no further assumptions into additional efficiencies. This is carrying forward but the team is currently on track to achieve.

Josh Silverstein -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Good. Thanks for the clarity there. And then you had a $1.52 premium on your NGL price assumption for this quarter and I know you bumped up the bottom end of the range, but based on strip pricing in the current portfolio that you guys have, any reason to think that we wouldn't still kind of be in that $1.50 range going forward and then maybe just as it relates to 2022, could you still see, can you see that premium can grow next year?

Alan Engberg -- Vice President of Liquids Marketing

Hey, Josh. This is Alan Engberg. I manage the Liquids Business for Range. Yeah, so we see that premium actually staying quite strong. As we noted in the call notes, we've put together a series of new contracts for our export business that diversify our portfolio, and the portfolio was pricing in a way that maximizes prices. So we're actually bullish going forward that our premium actually improves and hence the, the guidance that we've offered out there $0.50 to $2 over Mont Belvieu index. There is a lot of new demand coming on both domestically, as well as internationally. You've got organic growth in demand just from economies opening back up and GDP increasing as, as we slowly pull out of COVID on a global basis. And then you've got a large amount of just new capacity for consuming NGLs coming on line. For propane, in particular, you've got about 125,000 barrels per day of new PDH capacity coming on in Asia, plus you've got new LPG crackers that will add about net 50,000 barrels per day to global demand for LPG.

And then in 2022, if you're asking the question, we've got even, there's, the build-out continues. We've got about another 110,000 barrels per day of new PDH demand still coming on. That's in North America as well as in Asia and probably about another 25,000, 30,000 barrels per day of LPG demand from new steam crackers. So all in all, we're pretty bullish on the demand side, and from the supply side, we still see things kind of flat this year, you might have marginal growth, although a lot of people are still predicting that will have a reduction in C3 plus supply. And similarly, in 2022, we might have a marginal growth but the balances that we're looking at, all point toward a much tighter market going forward and that will add to demand for the products of the US and given again the portfolio of contracts that I mentioned that we have is also our access to the export docks and to some real good customers leads us to believe that our premiums will continue to be quite strong.

Josh Silverstein -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Got it. Thanks, Alan. Thanks, guys.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Mark S. Scucchi -- Senior Vice President-Chief Financial Officer

Thank you. Our next question will come from the line of Neil Mehta from Goldman Sachs. You may begin.

Neil Mehta -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks, guys. My first question, building on the NGL fundamental question is, any incremental color, you can provide on LPG demand trends in Asia, which seems to be an important part of driving that part of the barrel and any more details you can provide on the LPG contracts that you announced here, that can enhance your LPG pricing?

Alan Engberg -- Vice President of Liquids Marketing

Sure. Neil, this is Alan again. So in Asia, I believe this year there's five new PDH units coming on five or six, one of them is in Vietnam, the rest of them are all in China. So, right there is we are saying that it's about 125,000 barrels per day of incremental demand from those PDH units. Now, there were new PDH units added last year that were still in the ramp-up phase near the end of last year that add to what I would call the, the organic growth that we're seeing. So there is, there is strong growth from new capacity coming on, as well as, if you look at the chemical chain from you go from propane, let's say, in a, in a international steam cracker to ethylene, and propylene to polyethylene, and polypropylene.

The polymers actually are in short supply globally. And as a result, the margins throughout that chain have increased significantly, which gives good upside for feedstock prices. But with, with economies coming back on line, there's, there's some inventory replenishment that needs to take place as well as it's just going to be big GDP growth that most analysts are forecasting. So those two things. I think the pull is going to continue to be very, very strong from the existing installed base of capacity around the world, as well as that new capacity that we pointed out.

On the new contracts, really, can't say too much more about them except for, we had a, a big contract that expired recently, and it gave us the opportunity to put new contracts in place that really add to our flexibility and add to our capability to generate strong premiums relative to Belvieu. And again that supports our view of having one of the highest premium stability out of any producer in that $0.50 to $2 per barrel range.

Neil Mehta -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks, guys. And then the second question is more of a big picture one. I would appreciate your latest thoughts on industry consolidation, among the gas producers do you see opportunities for Range to optimize the portfolio either by selling assets or improving leverage through acquisitions here?

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Well, maybe we'll double team this one. I'll, I'll start and then turn it over to Mark. Yeah, I think, generally speaking, you've seen some industry consolidation on the gas side, and I won't go through the transactions that occurred last year, but we will know what they are and few of those were in Appalachia, whether they were corporate or asset purchases, but it was consolidation. Yeah, I think, generally speaking, I think you'll continue to see that with time and then to the extent it makes sense for Range. We will consider whatever is best for our shareholders, but in terms of us consolidating clearly we, we have a high hurdle rate and a high bar that we looked at, what have to be in basin accretive to free cash flow per share, deleveraging, allow us to maintain our peer leading capital efficiency and decline rate. So we will be extremely disciplined. We're fortunate and that we have, as we've said, decades of the core inventory left to drill. So we can stay focused on that, but if there is something that makes us a better stronger company that checks several boxes, it's something we would consider. Mark, you want to add to that?

Mark S. Scucchi -- Senior Vice President-Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Sort of to join and add-on to that. I guess taking a step back to what your rationale and your motivation is for either divestiture or consolidation. First, on the divestiture side, are you trying to raise capital simply to redeploy that capital into better assets, in other words, you're hiring off lower-quality assets. I would say Range has done a pretty thorough job of that over the last several years and further, we've reduced debt by $1 billion.

Near-term maturities zero this year, $200 so million [Phonetic] next year, $500 million or so, the year after that, ample liquidity, ample cash flow, we fully expect. So then you get to not just, nice to have [Technical Issues] also cover the need to have, there is no need to sell assets that what today would, I would suggest a less than optimal price for water high-quality asset in the Range's portfolio. Northeast Pennsylvania, the Lycoming County assets, specifically is a good cash flow generating asset for us, it's got good potential going forward.

So, going back to the points we made earlier in a previous question, with the deleveraging trajectory of the business, again, we're not in a position where we're forced to do anything. We can stay focused on doing what is most economic for our shareholder and for value creation. So then it takes you what's the nice to have, what's going to drive the most value. To Jeff's point, this a pretty high bar, but we do maintain financial and operating models on assets around us that may fit that. We do a deep dive into these to see what could accelerate deleveraging, what could reduce unit costs, what could expand margins, make a bigger business, overall reduce the cost of capital to the business.

So, as we look at that and we also consider what the potential impacts are to NAV, given Range's depth of inventory that's really unrivaled, all that is to say, it's something we monitor and something we'll continue to be certainly open to and evaluate, but the other motivations for M&A frequently are to backfill your quantity of inventory, which we don't need to do to improve the quality of your inventory, again Range does not need to do that. To fix the balance sheet, I think we're on the right path and we'll continue to work very hard to move that forward as fast as we can. So again those boxes are pretty well checked, so the last is just to maximize value for shareholders. Again, we're open to that and we'll continue to examine it, but I think the punch line here is, if possible, it's a high bar, but we've got a great path in front of us as we are currently operating.

Neil Mehta -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks, guys.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question will come from the line of Kashy Harrison from Simmons Energy. You may begin.

Kashy Harrison -- Simmons Energy -- Analyst

Good morning and thank you for taking my questions. Dennis, quick clarification question, did you say the lower capital in Q1 was mainly driven by timing shifts into Q2, or are you seeing some improvements in capital efficiency that could bode well for 2021 capex?

Dennis L. Degner -- Range Resources Corporation

Yeah, good morning. Thanks for the question. I would say it's a, it's little blend of both. We continue to see further improvements in our efficiencies. I'll start from that standpoint, the team has made great progress. I think when you look at just the, the scenario that we tried to walk through and from a water recycling to drilling some of our, our longest and most efficient laterals, it's all translating into further improved costs. So we continue to see really good progress and we're proud of, across the board in further staying below a $600 per foot cost structure type level.

On the other side, though we do have some turn in lines and a small amount of activity that would, would have shifted into the early parts of Q2, it's just a function of leading over from one quarter of reporting into another and on top of it, we tend to push some of our activity into just a more favorable weather time frame, so [Indecipherable] that ultimately is like road work as an example, difficult to do road work in the Northeast winter, hits freezing temperatures outside, so you will see a slight uptick for Q2, but it still will be very much aligned with our efficiencies that we've captured and also in line with we'll just say some seasonality, but really off to a really good start. And look forward to seeing what we deliver for Q2.

Kashy Harrison -- Simmons Energy -- Analyst

Got, got it. Very helpful. And then my second set of questions are for Mark. I was just wondering how should we think about changes in working capital for 2021 and then for dumb guys like us, is there, is there a simple rule of thumb that we can think about the model, changes in working capital on a go-forward basis maybe based on balance sheet amounts at year-end, just some, some help on working capital would be great?

Mark S. Scucchi -- Senior Vice President-Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Happy to. I think the change in working capital, obviously a draw of about $77 million in the first quarter, but it's, it's really fairly simple when we peel it back. So let me try to break it down into two pieces. First, prices went up, so accounts receivable went up. The month of March, it is built with in days after month close and you collect by the 25th of month. So by definition, higher prices, you're going to have a little bit of the delay and that cash coming in the door to pay off that accounts receivable. So that $33 million, so half of the working capital draw is simply due to higher prices. So to your question, is there a rule of thumb, you have, kind of have to map each company, a little bit, but if prices go up, there's going to be working capital draw and accounts receivable, prices go down, you're going to have that come back again.

On the other side of the balance sheet, accounts payable and accrued liabilities [Technical Issues] with a net $40 million draw, half of that we've talked about, that's the retained midstream liability. So there's your $25 million [Phonetic]. The other relates to some periodic annual payments. There are certain expenses you pay in a single lump sum over the course of the year. Pennsylvania impact freight for example or when annual employee bonuses are paid. Those are one-time events over the course of the year. So that's the sum total of the working capital change for Q1 for Range.

Again, you just have to look back at kind of some timing, some seasonality, and then changes in commodity prices as to how those might shape for each company over the course of the year.

Kashy Harrison -- Simmons Energy -- Analyst

Got it. So the message here is that as we look at Q2 through Q4, you probably are not going to see the magnitude of a draw as we saw in Q1, is that, is that fair?

Mark S. Scucchi -- Senior Vice President-Chief Financial Officer

Well, it's going to, I mean it will reverse, you'll have the revenue coming in, absent prices running further on us which would certainly be a welcome occurrence. But there may be small one-off payments, again annual expenses that go out, but no, we wouldn't expect the large, large one-off draws like this to be recurring. It's seasonal, it's lumpy periodically. But by definition working capital turns on you and comes back in overtime.

The one other point I would make is, for the one-off payments like impact fee or again employee bonuses those sorts of things, those are expense and accrued over the course of the year. So, as you look at our unit cost that's already been accounted for. Those, these are not incremental expenses to add to any sort of breakeven calculation. And we've obviously talked through the retained liability and that's just the roll-off of what was already expensed, already accrued.

Kashy Harrison -- Simmons Energy -- Analyst

Helpful. Thank you.

Mark S. Scucchi -- Senior Vice President-Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question will come from the line of Scott Hanold from RBC Capital Markets. You may begin.

Scott Hanold -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, all.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Good morning.

Scott Hanold -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

If I could maybe ask a question on the capital spending, can you give us a sense of like, where your well cost per foot are right now, I think your, your guidance for the year is somewhere in that $550 to $575. Are you sort of at, at that range and can you give us a sense of where within that range you are and also as part of that, what are the service cost trends that you're seeing. Is there any kind of pressure that you're feeling at this point or is it somewhat benign?

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah. Good morning, Scott. I'll start with the service cost and then maybe double back to the capital spending. From a service cost perspective, we go through a really thorough annual bid process with all of our service partners, a lot of them that we're using actually today are service providers that we've been partnering with for, for a number of years, you can say in some cases in excess of a decade. And so part of, of, of that process is providing a trajectory of what activity will have in the upcoming year and allowing those service providers to secure their goods and materials and also resources to make sure they're going to help us deliver on the program. So we've locked in our prices in a very nice way. We have seen some small fluctuations, most of them have been really small and not impactful to our overall cost structure. Steel is a good example of that. I mean, clearly, we're seeing some movement across the sector. When it comes to steel prices, it represents around 5% approximately of our total cost, and as we've talked about I think in our prior call, we actually were able to secure casing for the first six months of the year, and our tubular goods insulating us from some of those pricing increases, it's really nice, especially as you think about our program being front-end loaded and further managing any risk around that. When you couple that with the efficiency gains that the team continues to capture and again I'll reference the example that we walked through in the prepared remarks, our ability to further improve and get to that $570, $550 kind of range that you referenced is truly due to a multi-disciplinary approach and multiple aspects, it is the water recycling, having the ability to reutilize a part of our buried infrastructure that has been with us for a decade, along with just efficient truck traffic use to get recycled water to our sites.

We're drilling our best wells from a efficiency standpoint in our, as I touched on in the prepared remarks, our Q1 frac efficiencies reached an all-time high and we still had some cold weather and snow as everyone knows on the call. So we're continuing to see that we're, we're on a great start again for the year to meet these numbers and beat them. So we'll keep pushing through the year, but it's a little early to say that we're going to be significantly below or provide any additional guidance at this point, but we really see good strong efficiencies and we feel at this point, we've managed through the service cost pressures pretty well.

Scott Hanold -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. I appreciate it. And just to clarify again the target range, you gave a $550 to $575, are you within that range right now?

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

I think it's fair to say that our guidance is unchanged.

Scott Hanold -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, fair enough. And thank you for that. And just a high-level strategic kind of question, obviously you discussed how natural gas is, is in a better position at this point in time this year as well as NGL volumes or NGL supplies, which obviously makes you more constructive on the outlook. Strategically, how do you look at this in, in terms of like, how Range reacts, I mean, obviously, the, the gas producers, like some oil producers are taking more of a disciplined approach, but if we are getting tied on some of those inventories heading into the winter, certainly that creates a little bit of tension, obviously upside to commodity prices but there's also a need to make sure there is ample supplies in the event of very cold weather occurs. So could you just give us a sense of how do you balance that with, we're going to stay disciplined, we need to get debt down but at the end of the day, the market may need some supplies and so how do you prepare for that?

Dennis L. Degner -- Range Resources Corporation

Yeah, I'll. I'll start off. This is Dennis. I think from a planning and execution standpoint, we always leave some flexibility within our plan to be able to move back to pad sites with existing infrastructure. It allows us to react when we need to. I think last year is a good example of that. We were able to move some of our activity in a way where we continue to maximize utilization of our infrastructure, pull some of our dry gas turned in lines a little bit more forward in the program, especially as we saw impacts of COVID-related scenarios on refining along with liquids production and allow to push those, then liquids turn in lines later into the year to now be advantage to what we see in the commodity price environment.

So the planning team did a really good job there. As you think forward, we're staying in the course from a maintenance level program perspective. And If you look at where the commodity strip is at this point in time, it's really not incentivizing any growth. So from our view and I think as Mark touched on earlier, as part of the 2022 leverage discussion, it's really about staying the course from a maintenance level production standpoint and then seeing what truly materializes for 2022 and how that would change the various scenarios in-house that we would run to capitalize.

Mark S. Scucchi -- Senior Vice President-Chief Financial Officer

And I'll join Dennis reiterating that maintenance capital for the time being, I think the underlying question and a follow-up question could be well then what might motivate the company to increase its capital spending? And I'll say that unless Range sees a change, not only in the price but the duration of that price change, persistent change, meaning a change in the shape of the forward curve, something three, four, five years in duration, where you can hedge in to ensure the return of and return on capital for shareholders of that incremental capital spending and that would occur when there is a clear and persistent supply demand call on the market for Appalachia to grow production.

So we're going to be very disciplined in that respect, we're going to be very mindful of both in basin and broader lower 48 market conditions and the fundamental returns on capital to shareholders. We certainly have capacity, we've got the inventory that we can do that, but the focus on harvesting the value of the inventory and maximizing the cash flow with the first priority in the call on cash for Range being to position balance sheet, so we've got a fair amount of flexibility there to operate this business in a strong free cash flow environment as we see prices this year in the current strip and you can see the scenario we've laid out for 2022, approaching our leverage targets by the end of next year. So that leads you to again capital redeployment, is at the drill bit, or is the return of capital program to shareholders. I think as you've got clear line of sight to your target leverage levels and persistent fleet free cash flow that return of capital in the framework Range would use that, that becomes the topic of the conversation.

Scott Hanold -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

I appreciate the color. Thank you.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you, Scott.

Operator

And our next question will come from the line of Noel Parks from Tuohy Brothers. You may begin.

Noel Parks -- Tuohy Brothers -- Analyst

Thanks, good morning.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Good morning.

Noel Parks -- Tuohy Brothers -- Analyst

So I was intrigued by your last discussion. So given what we've seen with the strip and how it's been pretty apparent that the liquidity beyond the early years is, is challenging, I mean, I'm not thinking so much about the scenario where you could see three, four, or five of years of strength in the strip, it seems pretty resistant to building in that sort of time value into it. But I'm thinking more about a scenario where say post-COVID strong industrial demand, you have a six-month period or a one-year period where they were solidly in the 3s and even if the strip as a whole, doesn't make that huger leap, I'm curious, with the success you've had in your planning group, do you consider a scenario where you have a limited ramp up for a period of time and then sort of returning down to your current, your really fine-tuned level of operation with just your confine number of rigs?

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

I think in that scenario you just describe what that means, the range is just more free cash flow that's a short-term objective, we'll stay disciplined and you got to remember the wells are, have 50 plus year life and glad that the NPV is mainly over the first five or 10 years but react to six or 12 months signals just makes more free, if we won't, it will just mean more free cash flow to Range.

Noel Parks -- Tuohy Brothers -- Analyst

Fair enough. And I was wondering, do you have any sense of any regulatory loosening maybe on the state level to support, I'm thinking about an industry in particular, nat gas as an input to energy generation that is considered green, you know, fuel cells hydrogen and so forth. Is there anything on the state front happening you think could, could indirectly benefit Appalachian producers?

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

I think at a high level, you've seen some constructive things like from Senator Joe Manchin wrote a letter to the President supporting Mountain Valley and the importance of the gas industry clearly mentioned as influential key Senator and really the [Indecipherable] this point, so I think you know natural gas being a cleaner fuel, US has an abundant supply of, but I think it will be an important part of the energy transition and I think that will occur over a long time. We're well-positioned. We have slides in our deck and there's a bunch of third-party work, but really when you look at emissions, natural gas is at the head of the class, Appalachian is at the head of the class of natural gas, and we're in the core of that leading the way on the emisssions front. So I think, it is being embraced again, just referencing Senator Manchin, but there's a lot of people that are supportive of gas in the area, trade unions are very supportive of gas, and it actually pulls well in the state. It was a key issue in the last Presidential election and really both parties supported development of gas in Pennsylvania and in Appalachia.

Noel Parks -- Tuohy Brothers -- Analyst

Great, thanks a lot.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. We are nearing the end of today's conference. We will go to David Heikkinen from Heikkinen Advisors as our last question.

David Heikkinen -- Heikkinen Advisors -- Analyst

Good morning, guys, and thanks for taking the question. As I think about your free cash flow is really improving. And it sounds like you're offsetting inflation with efficiency, so as you head toward the $552 per foot range and you maintain $400 million of capital, you will actually get more wells drilled and so I'm just trying to think through, Jeff, you hit on this efficiency gain that just keeps happening longer laterals that you're moving beyond the $12,000 a foot. There is like this toggle of more cash flow that can come to us from the higher level of delivery per well and then even a possibility for a slight uptick in wells at the same number of capital. This is a longer-term thing because I know you're focused on the balance sheet and the $400 million stays, should we think about almost like a base level of acceleration that Range has blatantly with efficiency?

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Well, I mean another way to look at it is, in fact, it just generates more free cash flow in scenario you described for, as, that in the operational team is doing a great job leading lowest cost of drilling completed in basin and, and really historically has been getting better, a little bit better every year, just means our capital efficiency, we're already the most capital-efficient operator in Appalachia, while to stay there and I think, generate more free cash is what I would say. And once you get to the balance sheet, what do you do with the free cash, once you get below the 2 times I guess, I guess dividends come, variable dividends or do you just let a little more volumes flow?

Dennis L. Degner -- Range Resources Corporation

Yeah, I think that's a good question. And I'll point due in part to the proxy. The changes and executive compensation provide a decent directional sense of what the Board and we as management intend to do with this business. So long-term performance shares are keyed off of debt to EBITDA. That's a primary concern of investors than our, of course, so threshold being at or below 2 times, target at or better than 1.5 times, excellent being at or better than 1 times. So what you'll see us do is as leverage approaches that 2 times and you've got clear line of sight to better than that on a sustainable basis, then I think we can be crystal clear with what framework we and the Board approves as far as a return of capital.

So, that I think in this business it is by definition, a cyclical business, you need some sort of variable component, I think the combinations of fixed dividend, variable dividend, and/or share repurchases, it's a mix of those and I think as we again have clear line of sight to being within this target leverage ranges, that's when we'll put something more definitive out there, but the plans that have been discussed by other, other producers makes sense in broad strokes, it would be some combination of those with some guard rails if you will, on cash flow reinvestment into the business to give you a sense of, there is no return to the 20% growth days, if and when five-year curve is above some level that incentivizes some very low single-digit growth, which we can do, then there is still going to be guard rails on that. The balance sheet first, return of capital and then sustaining capex and then some very modest reinvestment if and only, if and when growth is clearly called upon by some of the supply and demand of the market.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah, that's what you feel to free point over, you want to call it that.

David Heikkinen -- Heikkinen Advisors -- Analyst

Hey, your three-year performance period, it looks like you guys are set up to hit your 1.5 times pretty, pretty reasonably. So if you can get to 1 times that 200% payout looks pretty appealing. So, good luck.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. This concludes today's question-and-answer session. I'd like to turn the call back over to Mr. Ventura, for his closing remarks.

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

I just want to thank everybody for taking time to listen to the call this morning. And for those people that asked questions, feel free to follow up with additional questions. Thanks very much.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 64 minutes

Call participants:

Laith Sando -- Vice President-Investor Relations

Jeffrey L. Ventura -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Dennis L. Degner -- Range Resources Corporation

Mark S. Scucchi -- Senior Vice President-Chief Financial Officer

Alan Engberg -- Vice President of Liquids Marketing

Josh Silverstein -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Neil Mehta -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Kashy Harrison -- Simmons Energy -- Analyst

Scott Hanold -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Noel Parks -- Tuohy Brothers -- Analyst

David Heikkinen -- Heikkinen Advisors -- Analyst

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