At the end of August, LINN Energy LLC (LINEQ) announced that it had closed the sale of its remaining Permian Basin Wolfcamp acreage. It was the last of several transactions over the past year as it reshuffled its portfolio by selling or trading away oil and gas assets that had high production decline rates, replacing them with assets featuring lower decline production. The company, however, has recently pointed out that it has a number of additional assets that it is currently working to cultivate so that it can extract more value from its portfolio. Here's a look at a couple of areas that it could sell or trade next.
On the company's second-quarter conference call CEO Mark Ellis said that the company continues to,
[...] Evaluate and develop areas which we believe hold significant future value potential. The company currently has approximately 10,000 net acres in the Ruston area and approximately 20,000 net acres in the Calhoun area, both located in North Louisiana. We recently completed a vertical test well in the Ruston field encountering multiple Bossier intervals confirming a continuation of the Terryville field trend onto our acreage position.
He would go on the say that the company is testing several additional intervals to confirm its oil and gas potential in the region. These are detailed on the following slide.
As Ellis and the slide above notes, the company has a large acreage position spread around North Louisiana that has compelling upside potential. It is currently testing two areas, Ruston and Calhoun, in an effort to prove the resource potential. In doing so the company can then market the position to potential buyers with data showing the oil and gas production from these wells. By having this data it will make the position less risky for buyers and therefore more valuable. Given the test wells the company has planned for later this year, it's possible that the acreage could be sold or traded in 2016, assuming of course the next set of test wells are as strong as the initial tests.
One major piece of LINN's portfolio reshuffle was the sale of its position in the Granite Wash and Cleveland plays, which were located in the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma for $1.95 billion. The company, however, didn't sell all of its acreage in that region of the country. It's that remaining acreage that the company is starting to cultivate for a potential future sale or trade. Ellis noted that,
The company holds approximately 35,000 net acres in the Tuttle area in Oklahoma, with Woodford and Mississippian formation, or SCOOP potential, and we anticipate drilling a horizontal well to evaluate the potential of this acreage position in the fourth quarter of 2015. LINN also holds 85,000 net acres in the Major County area of Oklahoma which we believe to be prospective for multiple horizontal targets including the Meramac, Mississippian and Woodford formations, otherwise known as STACK. Over the next 18 months, we anticipate spending modest amounts of capital to analyze these significant highly prospective acreage positions. We expect strong market interest in a potential trade or sale of these assets, and believe these positions represent a tremendous amount of potential future value.
This position is detailed on the following slide.
As Ellis and the above slide notes, the company still has a very compelling position in the Mid-Continent as LINN's acreage is right in the middle of the fairway of the STACK and SCOOP plays, which have been delivering very promising results for drillers. Continental Resources (CLR -3.02%) is one company that has been driving a lot of growth from the SCOOP. In 2015 Continental Resources plans to run 9 to 10 drilling rigs in the SCOOP, which along with the Bakken is a key reason why the company expects to deliver 19%-23% production growth this year despite weak crude prices. The map on the slide above shows where Continental Resources has been drilling, which just happens to be in close proximity to LINN's acreage.
Newfield Exploration (NFX), likewise, sees a lot of potential from the region, especially the STACK, which is garnering most of its attention these days. In fact, while Newfield Exploration has positions in the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale, the STACK is its main growth driver. The company expects its production from the region to surge 45% over last year with very strong growth planned in 2016 as the company's drilling plans are shifting over to the STACK and SCOOP plays. Further, Newfield Exploration has been very active in bolstering its position in the region having acquired 20,000 acres, suggesting it could have interest in some of LINN's acreage when it goes put up for sale.
LINN Energy isn't yet finished reshuffling its portfolio as it has two more emerging areas that could be sold or traded. The company is currently investing a little bit of capital to drill some test wells so that it can mature its acreage to make it even more valuable to potential buyers like Newfield Exploration and Continental Resources. Such sales or trades could boost the company's ability to weather the downturn as it could provide it with much needed cash or cash flow to reduce debt.