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Athabasca shows steady third quarter of 2019

Athabasca continues to demonstrate its operational execution and fiscal prudence to protect its financial position during prolonged market headwinds and commodity price volatility.
Athabasca continues to demonstrate its operational execution and fiscal prudence to protect its financial position during prolonged market headwinds and commodity price volatility.

Athabasca Oil Corporation is pleased to report its third quarter operational and financial results. 

Third Quarter and Operational Highlights:

  • Adjusted Funds Flow: $43.9 million ($0.08/share) and $133.3 million ($0.26/share) for the third quarter and first nine months of 2019 respectively.
  • Free Cash Flow: $8.6 million and $39.3 million for the third quarter and first nine months of 2019.
  • Liquids Weighted Production: 35,257 boe/d (87% liquids) in the third quarter of 2019 included 10,023 boe/d (55% liquids) in Light Oil and 25,234 bbl/d in Thermal Oil. Thermal volumes in 2019 have been impacted by government curtailments, facility maintenance and the redistribution of steam across the field to support the startup of Leismer's new Pad L7.
  • Leismer: Positioned for a strong 2019 exit with the tie-in of 5 well-pairs, supporting October production of ~18,000 bbl/d. Pad L7 production is expected to ramp-up through H1 2020.
  • Placid Montney: Rig released a 4 well pad for $8.2 million net, including 3 pacesetter wells. An inventory of 11 wells ready for completion are expected to provide exceptional short term returns and sustain corporate production and cash flow in 2020 and beyond.
  • Kaybob Duvernay: 13 wells to commence completion in early 2020 with Athabasca's share of capital protected by its joint venture carry provision. Recent well results have seen sustained production well above internal type curves with substantial cost improvements.

Business Resiliency Highlights:

  • Netbacks: Operational netbacks continue to be strong with Light Oil at $23.64/boe and Thermal Oil at $21.09/bbl in the third quarter of 2019. Operating costs in Light Oil are best in class at <$7/boe year to date. In Thermal Oil, the Company has completed diluent optimization projects at both Leismer and Hangingstone driving estimated cost savings of ~$16 million annually.
  • Enhanced Market Access: Secured ~7,200 bbl/d of Keystone pipeline service commencing in 2020 for a term of 20 years. This capacity diversifies Thermal Oil dilbit sales to the US Gulf Coast at pipeline economics which will allow the Company to further enhance its netback.
  • Low Sustaining Capital: The 2019 capital forecast remains unchanged at $135 million and is focused on maintaining base production. Forecasted 2019 Adjusted Funds Flow of ~$150 million is protected by 20,000 bbl/d of Western Canadian Select ("WCS") hedges at a floor price of ~C$53/bbl in Q4.
  • Liquidity Advantage: $336 million of cash and available credit facilities. Competitively positioned to diversify end market access, withstand market volatility with future flexibility for share buybacks and debt reduction.
  • Normal Course Issuer Bid: Athabasca's Board has approved a Special Meeting of Shareholders for the Company to pursue a share buyback given the severe dislocation in underlying value and trading price.

Outlook

Athabasca continues to demonstrate its operational execution and fiscal prudence to protect its financial position during prolonged market headwinds and commodity price volatility. The Company has minimized its capital spend to ensure it is aligned with funds flow, while preserving its strong liquidity. In 2019, the Company anticipates production of ~36,000 boe/d with Thermal Oil impacted by government curtailments, facility maintenance and the redistribution of steam across the field to support the startup of Leismer Pad L7. The 2019 capital program is $135 million with forecasted Adjusted Funds Flow of ~$150 million (US$55 WTI & US$17.50 WCS differential for the balance of 2019).

The ramp up of new Pad L7 wells at Leismer and a winter program consisting of Placid and Duvernay well completions are expected to sustain production through 2020. Budget objectives for 2020 include activity focused on a minimal capital spend and alignment with funds flow. Athabasca requires low sustaining capital to sustain its production base. 

The Company remains focused on increasing free cash flow by improving break-evens and mitigating external risks. The Company has preserved long term optionality across a deep inventory of high-quality Thermal Oil projects and flexible Light Oil development opportunities. This diverse portfolio provides shareholders with significant exposure to liquids weighted production and long reserve life assets.

Business Environment & Market Access

The Alberta Government announced mandatory industry production curtailments starting in January 2019 to alleviate the high differential situation. Following the curtailments, WCS heavy oil pricing and inventories have improved significantly. WCS prices have averaged C$60.24 year to date, a ~135% increase from C$25.36 in Q4 2018. Recently the Alberta government announced a program to provide curtailment relief in an effort to stimulate additional egress through crude by rail.  Athabasca is supportive of initiatives that increase egress capacity out of Western Canada but also views curtailments as a necessary tool for the government to have at its disposal to normalize pricing volatility if necessary until long term egress through pipelines is in place.

The global heavy oil market continues to be supported by structural supply declines in Venezuela and Mexico, OPEC cuts and growing petrochemical demand. These dynamics are supporting heavy oil pricing benchmarks with US refineries in PADD II and III requiring a heavier feedstock. The majority of North American liquids production growth is light or condensate spec and slated for export. Athabasca is well positioned for this changing dynamic with its Thermal Oil weighted production and long-life reserve base.

Athabasca continues to pursue egress opportunities to enhance netbacks and diversify sales points for its production. The Company recently secured ~7,200 bbl/d of capacity on TC Energy's Keystone pipeline open season. The Capacity is expected to commence in 2020 and provides the Company direct exposure to the US Gulf Coast at pipeline economics. Athabasca also has 8,000 bbl/d of direct refinery sales in 2020 which mitigates potential apportionment risk. Long term, Athabasca has secured egress with 25,000 bbl/d of capacity on the TC Energy Keystone XL pipeline and 20,000 bbl/d of capacity on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Normal Course Issuer Bid

Athabasca's Board of Directors has approved a Special Meeting of Shareholders for the Company to pursue the implementation of a Normal Course Issuer Bid ("NCIB") through the facilities of the Toronto Stock Exchange. The Board and management believe there is a severe dislocation in underlying value and the current trading price.

In order to affect an NCIB Athabasca must reduce its stated capital pursuant to the provisions of the Business Corporations Act (Alberta). As such the Board of Directors has determined to hold a special meeting of shareholders on January 8, 2020 to consider and, if determined advisable, approve a reduction in the stated capital of Athabasca's common shares. The record date for the special meeting of shareholders is December 4, 2019. Pursuant to the NCIB and subject to regulatory and shareholder approval, Athabasca would be able to purchase for cancellation up to 10% of its issued and outstanding common shares for a one year period at prevailing market prices at the time of purchase.

Management Update

Ms. Kim Anderson, Chief Financial Officer ("CFO") has resigned from the Company, effective November 5, 2019 to pursue an opportunity outside of upstream oil and gas. "We wish Kim well on her future endeavors and want to thank her for her contributions to Athabasca over the past five years," said Robert Broen, President & CEO.

Athabasca is pleased to announce that Mr. Matt Taylor has been appointed Chief Financial Officer of the Company effective today. Mr. Taylor has a breadth of financial and capital markets experience and has been with the Company in the capacity of Vice President Capital Markets & Communications since May 2014. Prior thereto, Mr. Taylor was Director of Energy Equity Research at National Bank Financial in Calgary. Mr. Taylor received a Bachelors of Commerce with a specialization in finance from UBC Sauder School of Business and holds a Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

Operations Update

Light Oil

Q3 2019 production averaged 10,023 boe/d (55% liquids). The division generated operating income of $21.8 million relative to $14.1 million of net capital expenditures. Athabasca maintained a top decile netback of $23.64/boe supported by its high quality liquids production and low operating cost structure ($6.92/boe).

The liquids rich Montney at Greater Placid is positioned for flexible and efficient development. The Company commenced drilling a 4 well development pad (2-5-61-23W5) in September. The pad was rig released in late October with $8.2 million net drilling costs and pace setter performance achieved on 3 wells (11.5 day average spud to total depth). Completions will commence on 2 pads (11 wells) this winter with tie-in expected in H1 2020. This low risk, capital efficient development will support Athabasca's base production and cash flow in 2020 and beyond. Placid development has strong initial liquids yields (200 - 300 bbl/mmcf), low lifting costs and a ~200 well high graded inventory.

The Greater Kaybob Duvernay program remains robust with a 2019 budget of C$256 million gross (~C$20 million net of capital carry). Activity is focused on delineation at Two Creeks, Kaybob East and Kaybob West. Two rigs are operational with completions expected to commence on 13 wells in early 2020.

By the end of this drilling season Athabasca believes the majority of the Duvernay acreage (six areas across ~210,000 gross acres) will be de-risked from a resource appraisal perspective and will be in a position to high-grade development opportunities thereafter.

Thermal Oil

Production for Q3 2019 and the first nine months of 2019 averaged 25,234 bbl/d and 25,484 bbl/d respectively. Production year to date has been impacted by government curtailments, facility maintenance and the redistribution of steam across the field to support the startup of Leismer Pad 7. The Company anticipates stronger Leismer production for the balance of the year and into 2020 with the recent tie-in of Pad L7.

Pad L7 is the first sustaining pad drilled since acquiring the asset in early 2017 and includes five well pairs with ~1,250m laterals (50% longer than prior wells). The new well pairs are expected to ramp-up in H1 2020. Production at Leismer averaged ~18,000 bbl/d in October an increase of ~1,500 bbl/d from Q3 2019.

The Thermal Oil division generated Q3 2019 operating income of $51.9 million with an operating netback of $21.09/bbl ($25.26/bbl at Leismer and $13.63/bbl at Hangingstone). Capital expenditures for the quarter were $21.1 million.

The Company continues to focus on cost optimization initiatives. The Company will be mitigating the increased water disposal costs seen at Leismer in 2019 by commissioning two disposal wells that will be in operations in 2020. Additionally, the Company has completed diluent optimization projects at both Leismer and Hangingstone driving estimated cost savings of ~$16 million annually.  

Risk Management & Balance Sheet

Athabasca's risk management program aims to protect a base level of capital activity while maintaining cash flow upside to the current pricing environment.

For Q4 2019, the Company has hedged 20,000 bbl/d with a WCS floor price of ~C$53.

For 2020, the Company has commenced its hedging program which currently includes 8,000 bbl/d of apportion protected WCS hedged at a differential of ~US$19.50 and 7,500 bbl/d of WTI hedged at a floor price of ~US$55.75. The hedging program targets up to 50% of near term corporate production and Athabasca will layer on additional protection to support its 2020 capital plans.

Athabasca maintains a strong financial position with liquidity of $336 million (cash and available credit facilities) and a Duvernay capital carry balance of $46 million. The Company's term debt is in place until 2022 with no maintenance covenants.

Company info

Suite 1200 215 - 9th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
CA, T2P 1K3

Website:
atha.com

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