Bellatrix Announces Strong 2015 Operational Results and a Focused First Half 2016 Capital Budget
CALGARY, Jan. 12, 2016 /- Bellatrix Exploration Ltd. (“Bellatrix” or the “Company”) (TSX, NYSE: BXE) is pleased to announce strong preliminary 2015 operational results and a focused first half 2016 capital budget of $46 million. Building on the operational successes from 2015, the Company’s first half 2016 capital budget targets continued full cycle profitable growth through development of the Company’s Spirit River liquids rich natural gas play, which remains one of the lowest supply cost natural gas plays in North America. Through continued capital discipline, the first half 2016 capital budget maintains a balance between preserving liquidity and financial flexibility through the current commodity price cycle while sustaining corporate production volumes, thereby positioning the Company for long term shareholder value creation.
Strong Operational Performance Achieved in 2015
Strong operational performance delivered estimated average fourth quarter 2015 production volumes of approximately 40,500 boe/d, resulting in full year 2015 average production volumes near the high end of the Company’s forecast guidance range of 40,500 to 41,500 boe/d. Production guidance was successfully achieved with budgeted net capital spending of approximately $160 million. Additionally, the Company achieved significant cost containment and reduction initiatives across its business units during 2015. Bellatrix estimates full year 2015 operating costs and net general and administrative expenses will average below corporate guidance of $8.25/boe and $1.65/boe respectively. Finally, reduced well costs and strong operational performance from the 2015 Spirit River development program continues to validate IP365 capital efficiencies of under $8,000/boe/d.
2015 marked a transformational year for Bellatrix. The Company completed construction of the Bellatrix O’Chiese Nees-Ohpawganu’ck deep-cut gas plant in the Alder Flats area of Alberta (“Alder Flats Plant”) on time and budget. The Alder Flats Plant successfully averaged 100% and 103% utilization rates through the third and fourth quarters of 2015 respectively, providing significant benefits including reduced costs, enhanced natural gas liquids extraction, and improved operational reliability. The investment in strategic infrastructure provides long term benefits and barriers to competition within our core operating areas.
First Half 2016 Capital Budget Balances Sustained Production with Financial Flexibility
Bellatrix’s strategic priority remains focused on profitable resource development in 2016. To that end, the Company continues to focus capital investment in its low-cost Spirit River natural gas play, which continues to deliver strong returns at current natural gas and liquids prices. On an annualized basis, the first half 2016 capital budget of $46 million represents a 43% reduction in net spending relative to estimated 2015 capital spending. Despite the reduction in capital expenditures, the Company’s focused development plans are expected to sustain total corporate production volumes at approximately 39,000 boe/d (+/- 500 boe/d) through the first half of 2016, reinforcing the high quality of Bellatrix’s asset base and portfolio of investment opportunities.
Net capital investment in the first half of 2016 will be focused on drilling, completion and tie-in activity, with only modest capital directed towards facilities and infrastructure given Bellatrix’s existing infrastructure network and moderated short-term production growth plans. In response to the current commodity price environment Bellatrix has elected to slow capital spending on construction of its 110 MMcf/d Phase 2 expansion of the Alder Flats Plant, resulting in expected completion of Phase 2 in the first half of 2018 versus prior expectations for completion in the second half of 2017.
Bellatrix’s 2016 budget incorporates January 5, 2016 first half 2016 forward strip pricing expectations of approximately US$39.70/bbl WTI and C$2.33/GJ AECO. Bellatrix has set its budget at what it believes to be a conservative outlook given the current commodity price environment, thereby preserving optionality and additional flexibility for the Company in the second half of the year. Bellatrix hedged approximately 30% of forecast natural gas volumes at an average fixed price of approximately C$3.30/Mcf in calendar 2016 (based on first half 2016 average production guidance of 39,000 boe/d) and additionally has approximately 25% of forecast natural gas volumes hedged with basis swap risk management contracts which further mitigate potential adverse movements in the AECO basis differential.
Strong Capital Efficiencies Drive Sustained Production Volume Expectations in 2016
In 2015, Bellatrix estimates half cycle capital efficiencies for its Spirit River development program generated IP365 capital efficiencies of under $8,000/boe/d. Operating efficiency gains, service cost containment, and strong drill bit driven productivity results are anticipated to deliver strong capital efficiencies in 2016 similar to 2015 levels.
The Company’s successfully met its operational objectives in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 which included sustaining total corporate production above 40,000 boe/d. With a shallowing base corporate decline profile of approximately 30% and industry leading capital efficiencies, the Company forecasts first half 2016 production to average 39,000 boe/d (+/- 500 boe/d), similar to average corporate volumes achieved during the second half of 2015.
Plan to Leverage Joint Venture Partner Capital in 2016 Provides Enhanced Efficiencies and Profitability
Bellatrix maintains a differentiated joint venture (“JV”) strategy which provides access to third party funded upstream development capital on a promoted basis, thereby providing enhanced return expectations on JV development drilling activity relative to organic investments. In calendar 2016, Bellatrix intends to access up to $42 million of partner capital under its JV arrangement with Grafton Energy Co I Ltd (“Grafton”). Pursuant to the Grafton JV terms, Grafton contributes 82% of the drill, complete, equip and tie-in costs to earn 54% of Bellatrix’s working interest before payout (being recovery of Grafton’s capital investment plus an 8% internal rate of return), reverting to a 33% working interest after payout (convertible to a 17.5% gross overriding royalty at Grafton’s option). Bellatrix and Grafton intend to extend the funding period for the remaining commitments under the Grafton JV to December 31, 2016 (from June 26, 2016) thereby providing additional operational flexibility for development drilling activity during the calendar 2016 year. Bellatrix expects to fulfill all of the spending commitments under the Grafton JV in 2016.
Forecast Operating Costs of $7.25/boe Represent an 11% Reduction Versus YTD 2015 Reported Cost Levels
Cost containment and operating cost efficiency improvements, along with the reduced operating cost impact from the Alder Flats Plant are expected to further compress operating costs in 2016 by approximately 11% compared with average operating costs realized in the first nine months of 2015.
Significant Financial Flexibility and Liquidity of Approximately $200 Million
Bellatrix is focused on preserving a strong and flexible financial position in 2016, which includes approximately $200 million of liquidity based on its $540 million revolving credit facility and bank debt outstanding as at September 30, 2015. Bellatrix anticipates bank debt at year end 2015 to remain relatively unchanged from September 30, 2015. Bellatrix remains focused on potential debt reduction initiatives, ensuring balance sheet flexibility to effectively manage through the commodity price cycle to preserve and enhance the long term value of the Company for our shareholders.
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