McClendon reiterated that the Oklahoma City oil and natural gas company plans to sell $17 billion to $19 billion in assets — about one and a half times Chesapeake’s equity market capitalization — by the end of 2013 while continuing to increase its total production.
McClendon said Chesapeake is now the country’s No. 11 liquids producer and is still the No. 2 natural gas producer even though it has shifted its focus away from dry gas.
While 85 percent of Chesapeake’s 2012 drilling budget is dedicated to oil and natural gas liquids-rich areas, McClendon said he expects natural gas prices to soon rise. He said he disagrees with models that show natural gas production continuing to rise over the next few months.
Given that Chesapeake produces 10 percent of the natural gas in the U.S. and has been responsible for 35 percent of the gas production growth over the past few years, we find it hard to model natural gas production growth when we’re going to decline 7 percent,” McClendon said.
Chesapeake and other natural gas producers have stopped production as quickly as they ramped it up, McClendon said.
The buildup was unprecedented, and the runoff was equally unprecedented,” McClendon said.
If the country experiences a normal winter, natural gas prices will soon climb, he said.
At that point, many natural gas producers will rush back into the market, but Chesapeake will not, McClendon said.
The question isn’t: Can you make money drilling a gas well in the Barnett or Haynesville at $4?” he said. “The question is: What else can you do with that money? I think we can make more with oil.”
While the oil and natural gas liquids market likely will remain Chesapeake’s focus, McClendon said natural gas is still a valuable commodity.
I think the days of $2 to $3 gas are going to be over. I don’t think the days of $7 or $8 gas are quick to return. But there is a lot of money to be made in the middle,” McClendon said.