This paper examines corporate economic and financial performance in the natural gas producing industry and assesses whether performance is a function of portfolio (types and location of gas supplies) or efficiencies in execution in capital spending and operations.

This issue is relevant for North American gas producers, related service companies, and government fiscal policy that are all trying to deal with the current low gas price environment, and the future.

North American gas producing companies assemble their portfolios from 2 categories of gas supply: Conventional and Unconventional (including Tight Gas, Coal Bed Methane, and Shale Gas). Producers economic performance is very different depending on the level of gas prices, so 2 price cases will be examined - ‘normal’ price ($5+/Mcf), and ‘depressed’ price (<$3/Mcf), comparing Conventional & Unconventional gas. In the Normal Price case, full cycle costs are the most relevant performance measure. The largest component, Capital Spending Efficiency, drives full cycle economic results and the return available to the producer. We show the wide range of company performance, such as Finding & Development Cost for gas only by company, and examples of full cycle cost for Unconventional vs. Conventional plays. Some play types are more economic (portfolio selection) and some companies are more efficient than others (Execution). The Depressed Price (current) world is characterized by a gas price well below Full Cycle Economics - there is no return, though some cash is generated. Operating Costs are most important. The range of average Operating Costs between types of gas fields in Western Canada and the Gulf of Mexico Shelf is shown. There is a large variation in operating cost among similar fields.

Both portfolio and execution are critical to surviving today's gas markets. It is important to know full cycle costs by strategy (and gas basin analysis) to achieve a target portfolio and strong performance in CapEx and Operations is critical. Other key factors to enhance revenue are: the impact of natural gas liquids on gas economics and the effect of hedging on the price achieved.

Natural gas prices have plummeted to decade lows, threatening gas activity. An understanding of industry economics is critical to forecasting and maybe even surviving!

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