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IHS: 2016 to get more difficult for E&P companies as strong hedging protection rolls off

As oil prices continue to decline, North American exploration and production companies have hedged just 15% of their total production volumes for 2016, including 14% of oil and 18% of natural gas. This leaves the companies largely exposed to current depressed market prices, according to new analysis from IHS.

According to the IHS Energy Comparative Peer Group Analysis of North American E&Ps, production hedging for the group of 51 companies studied will fall even more significantly in 2017, when just 4% of total production will be hedged, including only 2% of oil and 7% of gas, according to IHS.

“Companies hedge their production to provide a level of protection against oil and gas price fluctuations, and in 2016 and 2017, we see a significant decline in hedging protections, which means more companies are exposed to the current depressed prices and market conditions,” said Paul O’Donnell, Principal Analyst at IHS Energy and author of the hedging analysis. “For most companies in the sector, 2016 is going to be another very tough year, as plunging revenues lead to balance sheet deterioration, and financial pressures mount.”

The small US E&Ps have the highest level of hedging protections, the IHS report stated, with 47% of their oil production hedged at $74.31/bbl, and 46% of gas production hedged at $3.43/MCF, compared with 77% of oil at $83.15/bbl, and 58% of gas at $3.67/MCF in Q4 2015. Within this group, IHS said, Comstock Resources, Approach Resources and Stone Energy are among the most at risk of financial stress owing to high debt and little hedging.

The midsize US E&Ps have hedged 43% of oil production at $60.54/bbl and 26% of gas production at $3.34/MCF. High-debt companies with little hedging include Ultra Petroleum and SandRidge Energy.

The large US E&Ps have hedged just 6% of oil production at $53.85/bbl and 16% of gas at $3.58/MCF, making them the most exposed of the US peer groups, IHS said. The majority of companies in this group are unhedged in 2016 and 2017, although their balance sheet strength is superior to that of their smaller counterparts, offering a bigger financial cushion.

The Canadian E&Ps have hedged just 9% of oil at C$78.54/bbl and C$3.87/MCF, IHS said. Penn West and Canadian Natural Resources are the most exposed higher-debt companies.

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