Home > industry > energy > RIL offloads US shale gas assets as falling crude oil prices dent profits

Mumbai: Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) on Friday agreed to sell the first of its shale gas ventures—upstream Marcellus shale gas assets in northeastern and central Pennsylvania in the US—for $126 million.

The assets held by Reliance Marcellus II LLC, a unit of Reliance Holding USA Inc. and Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), were sold to BKV Chelsea LLC, an affiliate of Kalnin Ventures LLC. It is currently operated by Carrizo Oil & Gas, Inc. In 2010, RIL had bought a 60% stake in the assets for $392 million. 

“Additionally, Reliance could receive contingent payments of up to $11.25 million in aggregate based on natural gas prices exceeding certain thresholds over the next three years," the company said in a press statement on Friday. 

RIL had between 2010 and 2013, bought stakes in three upstream oil exploration joint ventures with Chevron, Pioneer Natural Resource, and Carrizo Oil and Gas; and a midstream joint venture with Pioneer. (Midstream refers to the processing, storing, transporting and marketing of hydrocarbons) Aggregate investments since the inception of these ventures were $8.2 billion till last year. 

In June 2015, the company sold its Eagle Ford (EFS) midstream joint venture with Pioneer Natural Resources in the US, realising $1 billion from the sale. RIL had spent $46 million in acquiring the 49.9% stake in EFS and invested another $208 million over the years. 

Till 2014, RIL had been bullish on the shale gas segment, however, the drop in crude oil prices since late 2014 hit the valuations of oil and gas assets. Shale gas blocks have suffered far more than conventional oil and gas blocks as they are economically viable only when prices are above a certain threshold. 

“Reliance’s US shale gas ventures have faced challenging times due to prices at their lowest in a decade. Reliance and its partners continue to improve efficiencies and we will continue to look at rationalizing these portfolio investments," Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of RIL, said at the company’s annual general meeting on 21 July. 

The company has adopted a zero drilling strategy to conserve cash. 

“In the prevailing weak commodity price environment, Reliance’s focus has been to preserve value in the shale gas business through high grading of the portfolio and reducing operating costs. The business is taking a cautious approach to resuming development and focusing on conserving cash and retaining optionality," RIL said in its annual report for the year 2016-17.  

"The domestic exploration and production front currently looks more attractive for RIL than its international asset portfolio. Besides, RIL has been pruning investments in its shale gas business over the past few quarters. Last April, the company took Rs3,261 crore impairment charge related to its shale gas assets in the US businesses," an analyst said on condition of anonymity. 

Reliance’s aggregate capital investments across joint ventures stood at around $200 million during the year 2016, reflecting a fall of 78% year-on-year, the annual report said.

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