Natural Gas Sector Focuses on Appalachia for 2024 and Beyond

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Written By Jackson Hartwell

The natural gas sector faced significant challenges in 2023, and 2024 is shaping up to be equally, if not more, challenging.

With natural gas prices lingering below the $2.00/mcf mark, high-cost producers are particularly vulnerable, facing potential long-term impacts on their financial health. In response, many have announced modest production cuts for 2024, aiming to stabilize the market as they anticipate the start of the LNG export boom by year-end.

Investors eyeing opportunities in the wake of these developments should consider focusing on Appalachia.

The region’s producers, notably Range Resources (RRC) and EQT Corp (EQT), are well-positioned to benefit from their low break-even costs and the additional margins provided by moderate liquid contents.

A Tough Year, Yet Survivable

Despite the challenges presented by supply shortfalls due to the Russian-Ukraine conflict, the natural gas market managed to rebalance, thanks to a warm winter and continued production growth from the Permian.

Credits: DepositPhotos

However, as 2024 unfolds with yet another warm winter, driven by El Niño effects, prices have plummeted to multi-decade lows, straining many producers.

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Identifying Opportunities Amidst Market Weakness

The key to maximizing earnings potential lies in identifying producers with robust fundamentals.

Appalachia emerges as a strategic location due to its low cost of production and the promise of increased demand from LNG exports.

However, it’s essential to distinguish between the potential of different producing regions, with Haynesville producers facing significantly higher risks due to their higher breakeven costs.

The Bull and Bear Cases for Natural Gas

The natural gas market’s future hinges on balancing supply and demand, with LNG exports playing a pivotal role.

The bear case scenario sees flat domestic consumption with a modest increase in LNG capacity, potentially leaving the market oversupplied.

Conversely, the bull case envisions a 3% growth in domestic consumption, alongside increased LNG demand, which could strain supply and elevate prices, particularly benefiting low-cost producers in Appalachia and Canada.

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Range Resources and EQT Corp

Range Resources stands out as a defensive pick due to its low break-even costs and significant revenue from NGL and oil sales. Its financial stability and strategic hedges offer downside protection, making it a resilient choice for investors.

On the other hand, EQT Corp, as the largest natural gas producer in the U.S., represents an aggressive pick. Its focus on natural gas makes it highly sensitive to market recoveries, with the potential for substantial revenue growth if prices rebound.

Volatility and Unpredictability

Investing in natural gas involves navigating volatility and unpredictability, particularly with the influence of weather patterns on demand.

While the shift from El Niño to La Niña could be bullish for natural gas, the uncertainty around weather patterns presents a risk that investors must monitor closely.

Credits: DepositPhotos

The Appalachian basin, with its combination of low-cost production and significant volume capacity, offers promising investment opportunities in the natural gas sector. Range Resources and EQT Corp emerge as strategic picks, each catering to different investor profiles.

However, the high breakeven costs associated with Haynesville producers caution against investment in that region, highlighting the importance of careful selection based on cost structures and market positioning.

As the natural gas market continues to evolve, Appalachia’s producers are well-equipped to navigate the complexities of supply and demand dynamics, offering a compelling case for investment in a sector poised for potential recovery and growth.

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