Whiting Petroleum: Is It Up for Sale?

Whiting  Petroleum Reportedly Up For Sale
Whiting Petroleum Reportedly Up For Sale

Rumors have been swirling for weeks that Denver-based Whiting Petroleum might be up for sale and some companies may be biting.

Bloomberg reported on Friday that several companies are expressing interest in Whiting including Exxon Mobil Corp., Continental Resources Inc., Hess Corp. and Statoil ASA.

No one is talking openly about a possible deal including Whiting, who has not given any official statement about their intentions. All information has come from anonymous sources and people who are speculating about what the company may do.

Bloomberg quotes Phillip Jungwirth, an analyst with Bank of Montreal, who says that “Whiting is probably exploring a sale along with other strategic alternatives, including selling assets, raising debt and selling shares in order to address investor liquidity concerns.

Some believe that a full sale is unlikely due to the Whiting's heavy debt and that it is more probably that the company will sell off large pieces instead.

In early March, Whiting released its 2014 earning results with CEO James J. Volker boasting a strong year with record production and a string 2015 growth plan. A week later,  rumors started to surface the Whiting was looking around for other opportunities.

Whiting was founded in 1980 and became the largest Bakken/Three Forks producer in the Williston Basin after its acquisition of Kodiak Oil & Gas in June of last year.

Hess to Reduce Bakken Spending by 18%

Hess' Bakken Acreage Map
Hess' Bakken Acreage Map

Hess Corporation recently announced revisions to its 2015 capital and exploratory budget that includes a big cut in the Bakken. The company plans to reduce spending in the region by 18% from 2014 numbers, hoping to allow the company to remain flexible in the face of an extreme pricing environment.

The company has revised its budget several times in response to the sharp decline in crude prices throughout 2014. The company reduced 2014 capital expenditures below its planned capital budget of $5.8 billion and the capex budget for 2015 is is $4.7 billion.

Related: Hess Increases Bakken Production Guidance Through 2020

Greg Hill, President and COO, stated that “We are reducing our 2015 spending in the Bakken to $1.8 billion, compared with $2.2 billion in 2014. In 2015, we plan to operate an average of 9.5 rigs and bring approximately 210 new operated wells online, compared with 17 rigs and 238 operated wells brought online in 2014. Hess has some of the best acreage in the Bakken, and we will continue to drill in the core of the play which offers the most attractive returns. As oil prices recover we will increase activity and production accordingly.

Overall, Hess reported an $8 million net loss for the fourth quarter of 2014 with oil and gas production increasing to 362,000 (boepd). This is an increase of 16% (55,000 boepd) from the fourth quarter of 2013. Bakken oil and gas production was up 50% from 2013 to 102,000 boepd. This increase was due to continued drilling activities and the completion of the Tioga gas plant expansion project.

Related: Hess Production To Soar in Bakken By the End of 2014

Hess Corporation has been involved in the Bakken Shale Play since they first discovered oil in North Dakota in 1951. Today the company owns substantial acreage in the region and has operations in Tioga, Minot, Keene, Killdeer and Fryburg, making Hess one of the largest oil and gas producers in North Dakota.

Read more at hess.com

Hess Increases Bakken Production Guidance Through 2020

Hess Corp. Bakken Spacing Pilot
Hess Corp. Bakken Spacing Pilot

Hess Corp., one of the top five Bakken producers, appears to be undeterred by lower oil prices, announcing plans to increase its five year production forecast this week.

After a successful Bakken downspacing pilot program in 2014, Hess told investors it would increase its net peak production guidance in the play to ~175,000 boe/d by 2020. The increase means the company would add an additional 1,000 well locations to a total of more than 4,000.

Even at current prices, or below, there’s still many areas for attractive investment in the Bakken,” said CEO John Hess the company’s annual investor day on Monday.

Hess told investors that he believes prices will rebound, and also pointed to drilling efficiency gains made in the Bakken that reduce the cost of drilling a Bakken well.

Hess' Tioga Gas Plant Expansion Project Paying Off

At the beginning of the year, poor weather conditions delayed work on Hess' Tioga gas plant expansion project, negatively impacting Bakken production in the first-quarter. By the second-quarter, production returned to expected levels, and at the end of the third-quarter production from the Bakken increased 21% year-over-year to 86,000 boe/d, due in part to the completion of the expansion project.

Read more:Hess Production To Soar in the Bakken By the End of 2014

Hess' Q3 Bakken Operations

Hess brought 59 gross operated wells on production in the third-quarter, bringing the year-to-date total to 142 wells. Drilling and completion costs per operated well averaged $7.2 million in the third-quarter of 2014, a reduction of 8% from the third-quarter of 2013.

Read more at hess.com

Hess Production To Soar in Bakken By the End of 2014

Hess' Bakken Acreage Map
Hess' Bakken Acreage Map

Hess' first quarter 2014 Bakken production increased slightly from the fourth quarter, but company official say total Bakken production was curtailed due to the shutdown of the Tioga gas plant. Company officials now say Hess' Bakken production levels are greater than 80,000 boe/d after work was completed on the Tioga gas plant expansion.

The expansion project, which is part of a $1.5 billion investment Hess has made in the area for infrastructure improvements, is now fully operational, and the plant is currently processing about 120-million standard cubic feet of gas per day (MMSCFD). The company expects the plant will soon process at least 250 MMSCFD with the potential to increase beyond 300 MMSCFD.

Read more: Hess to Begin Selling Bakken Natural Gas from Tioga Plant

Hess' First Quarter 2014 Operations Update

Hess brought 30-operated wells online during the first quarter, with drilling and well completions averaging $7.5 million. The company's net Bakken production during the quarter averaged 63,000 boe/d, and net oil production was 58,000 b/d. Total capital expenditures in the Bakken for the quarter were $451-million. That's a 21% decrease from $571-million in the fourth-quarter.

Since 2010, Hess company officials say they have invested more than $10 billion in North Dakota. Currently, the oil giant has a 17 rig drilling program in the Bakken with 2014 net production expected to average 80,000 to 90,000 boe/d.

Hess, Marathon, and Whiting Face Fines for Bakken Oil Classifications

Oil Rail Car Image
Oil Rail Car Image

Hess, Marthon Oil, and Whiting Petroleum all face potential fines from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The fines are being pursued as a result of PHMSA's investigation into the transportation of Bakken oil.

Oil taken from cargo tanks en route to rail facilities in the region was not properly classified. PHMSA took 18 samples from cargo tanks, storage tanks, and pipelines. In all, 11 of the 18 samples were not classified properly.

Hess faces fines of more than $50,000, Marathon Oil faces ~$30,000 in fines, and Whiting faces $12,000 in fines.

Also read:DOT's Arm Issues Bakken Sahle Oil Shipping Safety Alert

Transportation has an important role to play in helping meet our country’s energy needs, thanks to the increased production of crude oil, but our top priority is ensuring that it is transported safely,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The fines we are proposing today should send a message to everyone involved in the shipment of crude oil: You must test and classify this material properly if you want to use our transportation system to ship it.

PHMSA requires the use of nine hazardous materials classifications. Proper classification ensures the material is handled properly and that emergency responders can accurately assess accidents.

As a result of the findings, PHMSA has expanded the scope of the testing to include testing for proper vapor pressure characterizations, corrosivity, hydrogen sulfide, and concentration of dissolved gases.