Chesapeake Energy to Reduce Drilling on Lower Natural Gas Prices

(Reuters) — U.S. natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy on Wednesday said it would pull back on drilling and completing wells this year as natural gas prices fell to a quarter of what they were last summer.

Henry Hub natural gas futures NGc1 were trading around $2.087 per MMBtu on Wednesday morning and are down roughly 50% year to date. Chesapeake said it will drop two rigs in the Haynesville region this year, and one rig in Marcellus shale.

"We certainly see that it's prudent to pull back capital, and we think we're seeing others do the same," CEO Nick Dell'Osso said of energy firms pulling back in a shale gas play in Louisiana and east Texas.

"We're making money on the capital that we are investing but the margins are not nearly on a full cycle basis what they were historically," he added.

Other operators, primarily private firms, were also pulling back activity in that region, he said. Earlier this month, Comstock Resources said it would cut drilling rigs to seven from nine this year.

Shares of Chesapeake were up 1.62% to $79.31 in early trading.

Chesapeake, which previously announced plans to sell its oil position to focus on natural gas production, on Tuesday said it would sell oil assets in South Texas to chemical maker INEOS for $1.4 billion.

That deal comes a month after it agreed to sell a separate part of its assets there to Wildfire Energy for $1.43 billion.

Chesapeake expects to receive $1.7 in after-tax proceeds from those sales.

Rival shale oil producer Diamondback Energy on Wednesday said it was increasing its non-core asset sale target to at least $1 billion by the end of this year, up from $500 million previously.

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