Energy Update: Exxon Mobil announces Kearl oil sands startup

Exxon Mobil Corp. of Irving has announced plans to start production at its Kearl oil sands project in Alberta, Canada, incorporating new technology to boost environmental performance and meet future energy demand. The project is expected to reach 4.6 billion barrels of oil that the company said will meet energy needs for the next 40 years. “By combining a high-quality resource with our proprietary technologies, proven project execution capability and operational excellence, Kearl will provide attractive returns over the long term with a smaller environmental footprint than traditional oil sands mining,” said Neil Duffin, president of ExxonMobil Development Co., commenting in a news release. Kearl uses proprietary technology to produce bitumen, an asphalt substance, in a process requiring no on-site upgrading or steep capital investment and associated operating expenses. That means the bitumen is processed once, instead of twice, which the company said reduces the overall amount of emissions generated. Production of mined diluted bitumen from the first of three froth treatment trains has begun, with two more trains planned, bringing production from the initial development to an expected 110,000 barrels per day later in 2013. An expansion project has been fully funded and will bring on an additional 110,000 barrels of bitumen production capacity per day by late 2015, the company said. More than $1 billion of the project investment was directed to local suppliers and contractors in the Wood Buffalo region, of which more than 25 percent are aboriginal-owned and operated. The Kearl project is located about 45 miles northeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, and is operated by Imperial Oil Ltd., an ExxonMobil affiliate. Exxon Mobil Corp., the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, refines and markets petroleum products. More information is available at

Range Resources reports $75.6 million 1Q loss Range Resources Corp. of Fort Worth has reported a $75.6 million loss in the first quarter of 2013 as the company recorded charges on hedging and other items. At the same time, the company enjoyed higher revenue. Revenue and other income for the quarter surged 27 percent to $319.2 million, while sales of natural gas, natural gas liquids and oil rose 25 percent to $398.2 million. The company’s first-quarter financial results follow its production report for the quarter, which was released earlier this month. The report saw the company achieve record daily production of 876 million cubic feet equivalent of oil per day in first-quarter 2013, 34 percent more than the same period last year. “We accomplished a great deal so far in 2013,” said president and CEO Jeff Ventura, commenting in a news release. “Our 34 percent production increase coupled with the 10 percent reduction in unit costs reflects the high quality of our asset base and exceptional performance by the entire Range team,” Ventura said. First quarter 2013 earnings included a $100.3 million loss in the mark-to-market reduction in value of the company’s derivatives, a $35 million provision for possible settlement of a class action lawsuit regarding post-production costs charged to Oklahoma royalty owners in prior years, and $12.3 million of non-cash stock compensation expenses, among other items. Excluding those items, net income would have totaled $52.9 million or 33 cents per diluted share, according to the company. “We continue to fine-tune our drilling and completion process in our core plays, and we are seeing improved well performance and greater capital efficiency. We are well on track to achieve our production growth target of 20 percent to 25 percent for 2013,” Ventura said. Year-over-year oil and condensate production increased 52 percent and natural gas liquids production rose 22 percent, while natural gas production increased 34 percent. Driving the record production was continued strength of Range’s drilling program primarily in the Marcellus Shale, according to the company. Several non-cash or non-recurring items affected first-quarter results, according to the company. Among those was a $96.8 million mark-to-market commodity hedge loss. The company said it remains “on track” with its 2013 capital expenditure budget of $1.3 billion. The first quarter also saw Range complete an offering of $750 million senior subordinated notes due in 2023 that carry a 5 percent interest rate. Net proceeds of $737.8 million were used to repay the outstanding balance on the company’s bank credit facility. At the end of the first quarter, Range had about $1.6 billion of liquidity available under its credit facility. The quarter saw Range close a $275 million sale of certain Permian Basin properties in West Texas and southeast New Mexico. The properties comprise about 7,000 net acres and production totaling about 18 million cubic feet equivalent per day. Including the sale, Range has sold $2.3 billion in assets since 2004 to focus its resources and personnel on achieving the highest rate of return projects, it said. Range Resources Corp. is an independent oil and natural gas producer focusing its operations in Appalachia and the southwestern United States. More information is available at

Breezer prepares for fracking near Abilene Breezer Ventures Inc., whose Texas field team is based in Fort Worth, has announced that hydraulic fracturing soon will begin at Jackson Well 27 at its Callahan County site near Abilene. “The process has proven to be highly effective in dramatically increasing production from the Tannehill and Moran formation in the area,” according to a company news release. The move follows the company’s March purchase of the well, its sixth interest in the Jackson oil and gas fields. The location has been permitted, with the company planning to re-establish oil production that previously existed on the property. The company plans to drill to the Tannehill formation first to determine the quantity of hydrocarbons. With six wells currently undergoing drilling, completing or fracture stimulation operations, Breezer expects a further increase in revenues and reserves as the wells are brought into production. More information is available at

Chevron completes three gulf wells with Halliburton technology Chevron USA Inc. has completed three wells in deepwater Gulf of Mexico using Halliburton Co. technology. Marketed as Enhanced Single-Trip Multizone (ESTMZ) FracPac, the system allows operators to stimulate and gravel-pack multiple production zones in a single trip. Chevron and Halliburton conducted several system integration tests and two field trials to prove the technology’s effectiveness. About 18 work days were saved for each of the three Chevron-operated wells by using the technology, equivalent to about $22 million. “ESTMZ system allows more [reservoirs] to be stimulated in a shorter amount of time, thus increasing efficiency, reliability and production, which is key to the success of the Lower Tertiary,” said Ron Shuman, senior vice president of Halliburton’s Southern and Gulf of Mexico regions, commenting in a news release. Halliburton, headquartered in Houston and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, provides products and services to the energy industry and has more than 72,000 employees in 80 countries. More information is available at

- FWBP Digital Partners -

Anadarko announces Phobos discovery in Gulf of Mexico Anadarko Petroleum Corp. of Houston has reported that its Phobos-1 well in deepwater Gulf of Mexico has detected about 250 net feet of high-quality oil pay in Lower Tertiary-aged reservoirs. “Our 2013 Gulf of Mexico exploration program is off to an outstanding start, as Phobos marks our third significant deepwater success this year,” Bob Daniels, senior vice president of the company’s International and Deepwater Exploration operation, said in a news release. “Phobos’ close proximity to our Lucius project is expected to further enhance the economics of this potential future development,” Daniels said. The Phobos discovery, located in Sigsbee Escarpment block 39, was drilled to a total depth of 28,675 feet in about 8,500 feet of water, about 11 miles south of Anadarko’s Lucius discovery, which is under development. Anadarko is incorporating data from the Phobos well to determine future activities. Anadarko, operator of Phobos, has a 30 percent working interest in the discovery. Other co-owners are Plains Exploration & Production Co. of Houston, with a 50 percent working interest; and Exxon Mobil Corp. of Irving, with a 20 percent working interest. More information is available at

Send energy news to A. Lee Graham at