In recent years, infrastructure limitations have been one of the biggest constraints on operators in Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale, the nation's largest and fastest-growing shale gas play, resulting in large price gaps between Marcellus gas and benchmark prices.
But Marcellus-focused producer Range Resources (NYSE:RRC) has done a truly exceptional job in overcoming these infrastructure limitations by expanding its gas marketing options to access multiple markets and price points, giving it a major competitive advantage over its peers.
And with its announcement on Thursday that it has inked five new transportation and marketing agreements, that advantage just got even stronger.
Range inks new transport agreements
The first agreement is for Range to serve as the foundation shipper on the ET Rover pipeline, a natural gas pipeline owned by a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE:ETP), which will allow Range to ship up to 400,000 Mmbtu of natural gas per day north to Dawn, Ontario, and south to the Gulf Coast for a period of 20 years. The pipeline is expected to go into service in October 2017.
Range also signed two liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply agreements, one with an affiliate of Cheniere Energy (NYSEMKT:LNG) to supply gas to Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Louisiana for a five-year term starting in 2017 and another to supply gas to an LNG terminal belonging to an unnamed company for a term of ten years. Both agreements are subject to successful start-up of the projects.
Finally, Range signed two new fixed-term ethane sales agreements, one with an affiliate of South Africa's Sasol (NYSE:SSL) for 10,000 barrels of ethane per day for a multiyear term and other to supply a planned petrochemical complex in West Virginia with 5,000 barrels of ethane per day for a term of 15 years. Both agreements are subject to successful completion of the projects.
Growing and diverse options
These five agreements really showcase Range's exceptional gas marketing team, which has done a phenomenal job in expanding and diversifying the company's gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) marketing options. Since 2012, it has added over 40 new customers in non-Appalachian markets, with 25 of those customers added last year alone.
Crucially, having such a diverse array of marketing options reduces the risk associated with Marcellus basis differential volatility and helps ensure that Range's output can get to multiple markets at low cost. For instance, the Rover pipeline will allow Range to access high demand markets in Canada and the Gulf Coast with no additional transportation charge since the gas will be supplied directly from a regional processing plant.
Ethane for the West Virginia petrochemical complex also won't be subject to additional transportation fees since it will also come directly from a regional processing plant. Overall, Range's two ethane supply deals should significantly boost the company's ethane revenues by providing a low-cost transport option, as compared to the alternative of leaving the ethane in the gas stream.
More options on the way
In addition, Range is also the anchor shipper on Mariner East, a pipeline project that will ship ethane and propane from Range's Marcellus operations to Sunoco's Marcus Hook facility near Philadelphia, from where it will be distributed to both domestic and foreign markets. Mariner East's start-up, planned in the first half of 2015, has three major positive implications for Range.
First, it will give the company access to high demand foreign markets. Second, when combined with its other two NGL outlets -- Mariner West and the ATEX pipeline -- it will boost Range's ethane sales revenue by 25% net of all transportation costs and processing fees. And third, it will improve the economics of the company's core wet gas production in the Marcellus.
The bottom line is that all these options provide Range with access to multiple markets and pricing points, which should help reduce Marcellus basis differentials over time and allow the company to earn higher margins on its gas and NGLs production. They also provide the requisite marketing flexibility to allow Range to comfortably grow its production at an annual rate of 20% to 25% for many years to come.