EV Energy Partners' CEO Presents at Credit Suisse MLP and Energy Logistics Conference (Transcript)

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EV Energy Partners, L.P. (NASDAQ:EVEP-OLD) Credit Suisse MLP and Energy Logistics Conference Call June 26, 2013 4:00 PM ET


Mark A. Houser – President and Chief Executive Officer


Brett Reilly – Credit Suisse

Brett Reilly – Credit Suisse

All right, last up today is EV Energy Partners, and with us today is Mark Houser to tell us about what’s going on with the partnership today, and I’ll turn it over to him.

Mark A. Houser

Thanks Brett and good afternoon. I know that I’m proud of the only thing standing between you all and either going home or having a drink. So hopefully it will be interesting, and thanks to Credit Suisse for putting on this conference. We’ve actually had a very good day of one-on-ones, and look forward to talking to you guys a little bit more about what’s going on in EV Energy.

Just a little bit of background on EV, we’re an upstream MLP, I think there is a couple of us here today in the upstream space today. We’ve been around since 2006. We’re one of the earlier upstream MLPs to come. EnerVest, which is a private equity firm that’s been around in business for over 20 years now and management own about 76% of the GP, Encap a very successful private equity business owns the other portion. We’ve got about 43 million units outstanding, worth about $945 million of debt and senior notes, bank debts and senior notes. Management owns over 10% of the stock itself in addition to its GP incentive. And our current yield is reasonably attractive.

So the question is, why invest in EVEP? We’ve had a strong long-term performance in terms of shareholder return and in terms of growth. We really like our asset base, it’s solid, very long-lived, I’ll go over that a little bit more later. We hedge; we typically hedge out three to five years. We’re 90% and 95% hedged this year, out to 70% hedged in 2015, and we are looking to add to that as we move along.

We have a very unique relationship with EnerVest. As I mentioned EnerVest is a private equity firm, it buys, sells, buys fixes up and sells properties. EVEP of course buys material properties, and so you can see that there could be a relationship there. And over time, we’ve been able to do drop-downs from EnerVest, from the EnerVest funds, as well as invest alongside than which gives EVEP a lot of purchasing power.

And what’s very unique to EVEP compared to the other upstream MLPs is, we have a lot of exposure to the Utica Shale, and we’ve actually, over the last few years worked to diversify that upside into various forms including acreage, an overriding royalty interest, and a midstream investment.

Simple chart kind of on our growth metrics, you can see our production grew pretty dramatically the first few years, it stayed relatively flat. I want to point out a couple of things, this growth has primarily been through acquisitions. We believe that upstream MLPs should maintain their production through organic activity, maybe slightly grow it, and they should grow through acquisitions, and we demonstrate that pretty well. As another example though, the last year or so we haven't done a lot of upstream acquisitions primarily because we've been focused on monetizations of the Utica and investing in a pretty unique midstream opportunity I'll talk about in a little while.

You can see our capital, we've actually decreased capital this year, but I think you’ll see as the year goes along we’ll actually be able to grow production pretty dramatically despite our reduced capital. And you will also see in capital, we've got a pretty big investment in midstream again that I’ll talk about in a little bit.

Historically, we've been very good at covering distributions, that is our intent, our desire is to be somewhere around say 1.05 to 1.2 in terms of coverage. For 2013 we’ll actually not be covering our distribution at least early in the year, there are some reasons for that that are tied primarily to our growth in the Utica, but also to some of the NGL softness we’re seeing in the market right now.

In terms of hedging as I mentioned, we believe strongly in it, we hedge a lot upfront when we do acquisitions. We also hedge along the way. We don't believe it’s a one-time decision. Right now, we’re hedged about 90% for 2013, 80% for 2014, and 70% for 2015. And you can see our average hedged pricing as like others we had, we were very, very well hedged through last year at very, very high prices, we still like our prices, but they’ve obviously come down from last year.

Just a brief picture of our asset base. You can see we’re spread out over the country. EVEP itself has about a TCF of reserves were 76% proved developed which we feel is kind of the right mixture for the type of format that we have. We are about 70% gas, 20% NGLs, and about 10% oil. Our reserve life index is about 15 years, and we produce, we’re actually producing around about 167 million cubic feet a day right now, so we’ve actually grown a little bit more than our guidance at least so far, and look to have a pretty good year on the production side.

You can see our asset base, and this asset base mirrors the EnerVest asset base, and puttying into perspective if you add EnerVest and EVEP together, you’ve got about 4 Tcf to 5 Tcf of proved – of total proved reserves, which again puts us in kind of the top 25 producers in the country, so although EVEP itself is small, big brother so to speak, gives us some of the scale you need to operate in this business.

Looking a bit at reserves and capital spending, the lion’s share of our proved reserves are in the Barnett Shale, about 60% of our reserves are in the Barnett, about 40% of our production comes from the Barnett, you can see that our capital is tied primarily to the Barnett. We’ll be spending a little under $90 million on E&P capital this year. We’ve actually been able to slow our capital down just a bit but maintain our production and actually grow it. The Barnett comprises the lion’s share of that. If you look at our overall portfolio, really two assets Central Texas and the Barnett are primarily primary organic growth sources, these other assets are for the most part harvest type assets.

Looking generally at operations, our base business our non-Utica is performing very well. As I mentioned the Barnett Shale is one of the big drivers, we’ve actually reached peak production rates the last several months out there. Our initial production rate on drilled wells are coming in about 11% higher, while our drilling costs are coming in about 9% lower as we drill our horizontal wells in the Barnett. And these are all generating with the liquids component which is all we’re drilling well over a 20% rate of return which is our minimum target.

We’ve got about 70 wells planned; we drilled 18 through the first quarter, we’re on that pace again this quarter, and again we're having a really good results there. One of the other components of growth for us is the Austin Chalk, it produces again less than 10% of our total production, but we’re doing a couple of interesting things there. We’ve started reentering old wells, old horizontal wells that didn’t have a frac and doing multistage fracs on them. Instead of costing $4 million, $5 million to drill a horizontal well and do a multistage on and sometimes even $6 million it looks like we're going to be able to do these for like $1 million, and we’re about, actually we've gotten the tools out to frac the first couple of wells and we will be doing that in a couple of weeks. So we will keep you posted on that.

For a minute I want to talk about kind of our evolution in Appalachia and specifically in the Utica. If you look at us, say four years ago pre-Utica, EnerVest and EVEP had a conventional production position in the Appalachian basin including a small position in Ohio. But as technology has evolved, we realized that the Utica Shale was present under a lot of our acreage and what we've worked on over the last little while is trying to diversify that Utica Shale potential.

So if you look at us currently kind of in Appalachia in addition to our existing conventional production, we've got an opportunity in the midstream business in a couple of different ways, one through Utica East Ohio Midstream which is a fractionation and processing business. We've also got Cadinal Gas Services which is a low-pressure gathering in business. We've carved down an overriding royalty in all of our acreage in Ohio to participate an upside in the Utica, and we still have our Utica working interest acreage, so I’d like to point a little bit to some of that right now.

Let's look at our Utica Shale position. The map on the right side of the screen here the purple box shows an area in which EnerVest participates with Chesapeake and Total in a joint venture of 660,000 acres. The red box shows the entire position of EnerVest and EVEP. Again we have one of the largest positions in Ohio over 8,000 wells that we operate. We’re the largest producer in the state. We control over 900,000 acres and again we have this joint venture participation, I mentioned with Chesapeake. If we grind down to EVEP, EVEP itself has 177,000 net working interest acres in the Utica, it also has an overriding royalty interest, and again the participation in these Midstream projects that I will speak of in a minute.

Let’s look a little bit of what’s going on in the Utica overall. Overall, there has been almost 750 wells permitted, 350 or so drilled, there is a lot of activity right now. I think there is about 18 rigs running, there’s a 102 producing wells. I mentioned that Chesapeake joint venture earlier that EnerVest and EV are a part of, it takes the lion’s share of the wells that are drilled or drilling and this is a moving target but approximately 235 wells have been drilled or are drilling in the Chesapeake joint venture, and EnerVest, including a small piece of EVEP gets to participate.

Currently there’s 12 rigs running, there have been 67 wells that have been brought online, that means there’s 168 wells that are in various completion stages, anywhere from waiting on pipeline to still awaiting completion to time with the pipeline tie-in. 75 of these 168 are simply waiting on pipeline capacity and that’s happening right now.

Chesapeake and partners are completing wells with more stages, their cluster spacing has been shortened, and we’re having fewer cluster stages per – clusters per stage. Again a lot of these are just adjustment to frac technology that happened in every basin. But from what we can see in the results so far, these minor adjustments in completion technology are increasing some of these Utica wells dramatically; some of the data we’ve seen from Chesapeake suggest as much as 30% to 50% increases over some of the early wells they drilled in the Utica. And again there is still that big financial commitment within this joint venture and a physical commitment to drill about 550 wells total through 2014 so a lot of growth ahead.

I mentioned the Midstream, a lot of wells waiting to be tied online, there has been a bottleneck in the Midstream business. Natrium has come online, an additional stream in Natrium came online in May that added about 200 million a day of capacity, 100 million of that went to Chesapeake, and so Chesapeake’s production including some of our net production went from about 85 million a day to 185 million a day almost overnight.

Utica East Ohio the venture that we participate in will be coming on at the end of June that will add another 200 million a day capacity over the next couple of months, and there is other Midstream capacity forthcoming.

So, let’s speak a little bit about some of the acreage and the activity within the acreage. The map here shows essentially that EVEP acreage and the various windows from the green which is – really the Black Oil window, through the blue which is the Volatile Oil window, the yellow is the Wet Gas window, and then the red is Dry Gas. You see the box where the Total AMI with Chesapeake and EnerVest is and you see the ellipse that’s been drawn on the page. The ellipse is really were most of the activity has been going on.

Initially if started out mostly with Chesapeake and a little bit with Gulfport in kind of the Central area of Ohio including Harrison and Carroll counties. That activity is now expanded down into Noble and even Northern Washington County, and as far north as up into Trumbull and Mercer County with folks like BP, Hilcorp in the north and Chevron and Shell and folks like Gulfport, PDC, Magnum Hunter and others in the south, and there is starting to be more and more activity. Most of this activity has been in the Wet Gas window again as shown by the ellipse. The play is expanding as I mentioned, and everything looks really pretty encouraging in terms of Wet Gas.

Now on the Volatile Oil side the calculations that we’ve done based on about 600 wells that EnerVest has drilled overtime to penetrate the whole Utica, suggest that out in this Volatile Oil window there’s about 20 million to 30 million barrels of oil per section. However, there’s been very limited drilling activity. Only about six wells have really tested the Volatile Oil window so far. The lion share of the work has been in the Wet Gas window. And those – the results so far have been somewhat marginal.

Couple of the wells that EnerVest operates have both IP at around 400 barrels a day, which is not a bad rate for an IP out there plus some liquids and gas. However, they just have a maintain production very long, although they maintain reservoir pressure. So the question we have is what do we do about kind of helping improve the flow capacity of these wells, and we believe the answer is going to come through enhance fracturing, and so we’re looking and working with some folks to do something about that.

So getting back to our overall strategy really there is two components to it. We started off. Last year EnerVest and EVEP combined began a marketing process and it was focusing on sale, the sale of most of our operating acreage in a big package. We actually put in to market over 330,000 acres, which would have been about 100,000 in the EVEP.

As the market evolve we found out that really buyers who more interested in buying pieces of that and not larger pieces. So in the second quarter of this year we revised our marketing strategy to put it in the smaller packages that really to better align our sales with our potential customers, really the customers changed.

This time last year we had a lot of the majors telling us they really wanted huge large acreage positions, but as the year unfolded I think it was the economy, I think it was elections and other things, the market changed. And a lot of those same majors said look, we’re not interested in big pieces anymore, but we would like some small pieces. And also they’ve said, in some of these areas that are less mature, we want somebody to prove these up, and once they’re proved up, we’ll put our resources into these larger blocks and we’ll pay up [for them].

So really we’ve got two different more or less projects going on. We’ve got our Wet Gas Window project where we repackaged with a lot of the recent technical data, and we’ve reopened the data room to smaller players and smaller packages. We’re having significant interest in that, and we’re hopeful to get few deals signed up over the next little while, frankly about a year ago, we really targeted on year end, and we weren’t able to meet that and so we’ve kind of backed off and said look lets once work really hard, and once announce something when it gets announced, and not predict, that be in the case we are generally pleased with the activity there.

The other thing we’re doing is in the Volatile Oil window, of course the market, the acreage is still for sale, if somebody comes in, who really has an attractive offer for us, but in the mean time, we’re working with service companies and some of the established producers in other basins, the folks who have de-risked the Eagle Ford, the folks who have de-risked the Bakken, and coming up with a joint venture plan to take a small amount of our acreage, put into an AMI and have them help us to do some drilling, that will be, we’re not going to put capital to work on it, and we’re going to contribute acres, but we figure it’s a way that we can de-risk some of our acreage and make it more attractive and kind of prove it up and then still leaves us a lot of open acreage.

Real quickly if you look at EVEP’s position, this is something a lot of our investors have appreciated is that we’ve broken out our acreage by the various windows the Wet Gas, Volatile Oil and other. And you can see at the bottom of the slide about a little over 50,000 of our acres is in the Wet Gas window, about 80,000 acres is in Volatile Oil window, and then about 44,000 acres is in different areas.

Again, when we started the marketing process last year, we really weren’t even paying attention to our southern acreage such as Noble or Washington and we weren’t focused on our Pennsylvania acreage as well. So the overall acreage that we feel is exposed to the Utica is actually higher than it was.

So if you’re looking at is realistically the 54,000 or so acres and majority of that we have a good lineup side in terms of sales over the next while. The 80,000 wells of all acreage will take a little bit longer, but again we remain optimistic about the opportunities there. Our override; as we got into this process, we realized that an MLP would love to have overrides, because basically it's expense less, capital less income overtime. And so we carved on and override on many of these leases, many of these leases were 87.5% net revenue leases, and we carved lot of them down to an 80% interest.

And then that's divided among some of our partner companies, so you can see that on average we have about interest at about 880,000 acres. We average about a 2.7% override on 400,000 acres, and 1.3% override 460,000 acres, and again those numbers are tied to EVEPs ownership and some bigger properties. But again this is really significant future cash flow that will be unlocked as these wells are developed more and more, as the Utica has developed more and more.

Shipping for bids for the midstream. There is about 2.6 Bcf a day of proposed processing projects. You see a big blue line through the middle of this page that has Dominion East Ohio line, essentially the only sales line for liquids going down in the whole state of Ohio. What I’ve got on here are the announced kind of moving different midstream projects, the gold represents Utica East Ohio, and Utica East Ohio is a project being led by Momentum which is a very successful private equity firm, actually EVEP has a 21% interest in this project, so let me go that little bit more.

The slide here on the left shows the Utica, basically EnerVest, I'm sorry EVEP’s midstream investment. Primarily it's driven by our Utica East Ohio investment. Utica East Ohio as about, we have a 21% interest in it, and that project is together process and fractionates wet gas primarily from the Chesapeake total EnerVest joint-venture. In four stages it’s going to bring on 800 million a day of gas capacity and about 135,000 barrels a day of fractionation, thus going to have some on-site working storage. This is funded or essentially backed by about a million acres that have been committed through Chesapeake and EnerVest. So it’s got a very strong backing in terms of acreage development.

And as I mentioned, Chesapeake is planning on drilling over 540 wells on their acreage alone. The first try of this will be online at the end of June, an upside potential exist as this drilling expands, again this is right kind of in the four of the play around Harrison and Carroll County, and again you got a couple of big acreage holders who had committed to it and there’s others that they are working on.

The other investment we have is in Cardinal Gas Services, EVEP owns a 9% interest in that and it is a low pressure gathering and compression of wet gas from the JV production in the Chesapeake joint-venture. So imagine Chesapeake drill their wells, they need to tie those wells into Utica East Ohio, so the need some pipeline run from those wells to the main lines. Cardinal does all that and so an EVEP has an interest in that. Again, it’s backed by a firm drilling commitment from Chesapeake, there’s plans for over 4,600 wells, over an 18 year period and within five years they are expecting over a Bcf a day coming through that and again there’s upside as the development expands.

This is just a picture of one of the aspects of the Utica East Ohio, this is our Harrison Hub. Again, up the top is the 45,000 barrels per day of NGL fractionation that’s the first train, there’ll be two other trains to come on line with that. You see some of the other components and right down the middle of it, you see ten tracks that have the capacity, I think to handle over 300 railcars. So again, as an upstream oil and gas guy I never I’d learn as much about railcars, but I actually was sitting in part of the railcar discussion here a minute ago, and which is fine the things you learn that in North America over my career if I go way back when I never would have thought, we've been talking railcars to transfer North American oil to North American markets, it's beyond what we ever thought would happen.

Kind of getting back to the Midstream overall, this chart shows kind of the progression of capital and EBITDA we expect for EVEP out of the Midstream investments. We are talking about capital of around $360 million over a five-year period. Again, (inaudible) is driven by a fee structure, we get fees on gathering, compression, processing, transport, et cetera like most conventional kind of processing agreements are. And then Cardinal Gas Services actually has a cost of service arrangement with the fixed internal rate of return. And that's adjusted annually as you look at the overall returns, so it's really kind of a return on capital.

But if you combine the two it’s projected by 2016 we will be generating somewhere around $60 million to $70 million of EBITDA from this. We're developing this for less than six times EBITDA overall and from what a lot of you all know and what we know of what projects like this trade for in the market. We’re hopeful that overtime we’ll get either multiple expansions or more realistically we'll sell this to someone who wants to operate the position overtime, Momentum our general partner in this had a great record for doing this and combined with us and Momentum we own 51% in this investment.

So as to kind of wrap it all, why invest in EVEP; it gets back to what I said earlier. We've had long-term performance in growth. The EnerVest family that really is the general partner of EVEP has been around for almost 22 years now doing acquisitions. We've done $6 billion of acquisitions and divestitures including the EVEP over the last six years, so there is a lot of experience there doing [A&D] work, we are comfortable and like long lived assets with low decline rates, frankly we like to buy old boring assets and just manage them, that’s what we do, and we have been pretty good at over the years.

Our hedging strategy is pretty simple, we use mostly just swaps and collars but we tend to hedge out three to five years and have always been able to manage our cash flows that way, we have good relationship with EnerVest, again we can do drop down, we can also add or kind of tag along acquisitions where EVEP invests alongside EnerVest, we also have significant, and we get the scale of EnerVest. Again, we are able to go as a top 25 producer to negotiate our drilling contract, whereas if we are standalone EVEP we are not in that position and finally we’ve got Utica Shale upside, which again is some what unique to us and really is evolving as we speak, as we start to see take away really happen out of the Utica.

So with that I want to thank you all and I know I'm standing between you all and the reception. So there is probably time for few questions, but with that I will turn it back over to you all. Thank you.

Question-and-Answer Session

Brett Reilly - Credit Suisse

Maybe I’ll start off (Inaudible)?

Mark A. Houser

Okay. The question was how has the Utica process, sales process changed? well if we go back to October, really the market was to sell a large package or up 3,30,000 acres or maybe three or four components of that, pretty big chunky packages, but as the market evolved really there was interest for a lot of our places, but not at that size.

We actually went down the road, with one party who was interested in buying probably two-thirds of the acreage, went pretty far down the road, the price was good, but some of the terms and conditions just weren’t what we wanted, we were going to have to assume some liabilities that we normally wouldn’t in any other agreement we had ever been in and didn’t feel comfortable. Those are related to environmental, and title and just some, because again EnerVest is not selling its interests in 8000 wells that hold production, that hold these leases by production.

So as we went through that, we started realizing there’s a lot of folks interested in buying smaller pieces, 20,000 acres, and 30,000 acre pieces and folks were really starting to get production information back and hone in on areas they like. As an example, there’s different folks testing the Utica in the south versus the north, versus the central. As an example Rex just recently announced a well in Carroll County along with, which is really a strong well.

Of course, Gulfport has been down south announcing things, so there’s different players in the process. We realize we’d probably have more interest from larger group of companies if we shrunk the size down. So for the last two months we’ve been talking to a lot of different companies about buying small pieces. And again the interest is very strong, we’ve gotten several offers, we’re in various stages of negotiating on those offers, but again really encouraged with the response. Yes, John.

Unidentified Analyst

Yeah, just a follow-up. Couple of years ago the value of the acreage (inaudible)?

Mark A. Houser


Unidentified Analyst


Mark A. Houser

You know we’re not real active in the acquisition side of that, I can say looking at benchmarks I know that there’ve been transactions completed in parts of it for 10,000 an acre lately, there has been transactions completed up in the northern end for 4,000 to 6,500, we’ve seen various different levels. And so really in the Wet Gas window, if anything results have gotten better.

And so there is obviously the big benchmark that Chesapeake hit on Total, which on a PV basis is about $12,000 something per acre mode, that I haven't seen hit again, but with existing continuing results and especially with the Midstream coming online there being more, I guess granularity around production, to me that should help. I can’t comment a lot on specific and certainly I'm not going to comment on the biz we are getting, but hopefully we'll be able to talk to you guys before too long about some of those numbers.

Unidentified Analyst


Mark A. Houser

The question was, are we considering asset swaps as we sell smaller blocks of acreage? Actually that's in terms of swaps with the buyer, that's become a bit more problematic. Actually when we're doing the big deal part of the idea was initially a big swap which looked very interesting, we just couldn't come to an agreement on price on valuing that, we moved that to a cash deal. On the smaller deals, to us we see as selling maybe one month a certain amount, the next month a certain amount, the next month a certain amount, and that's going to be difficult to manage trades with that many transactions, but that being the case EnerVest, the funds have several assets that they are interested in liquidating over the next year or two.

And we've already had some discussions with kind of their Board around the idea of doing kind of the step-by-step drop-down or some really drop-down of some of their acquisitions. So look for us to do that sort of thing where we do some drop-downs out of EnerVest that time with the sales of the assets so that we still have the tax effective nature.

Unidentified Analyst


Mark A. Houser

You will see us, in terms of reinvesting, if we’re doing some of these drop-downs that will be fairly timely, I mean to get like kind treatment, I think you have 45 days to identify, and another 60 days to do a deal, we’ll certainly be within that in terms of redeployment.

Unidentified Analyst


Mark A. Houser

You know the projections we have this year, the answer is no. And we’ve said that publically. As we do our projections right now without doing any Utica sales mid to late next year, we’re back into the 1.0 coverage, but that’s with doing no sales or anything else.

I mean frankly the issue there is more managing through some of the debt side of the equation, in terms of some of our covenants, if we were to not sell any acreage at all, we’ll be – we’ll have to deal with that. Now, we’ve had great relationships with our banks, and I'm sure there are some alternatives, we got some other alternatives we look at, but on the coverage side the answer to your question is, yes, we will get back to coverage as our mid-stream investment comes online.

Now keep in mind, we’re really pre-funding this investment, it’s about $450 million all in that we’re spending on midstream investment or really pre-funding it, and we haven’t issued any equity tied to that. Right now, we are assuming, we are going to fund it with debt, but it’s left us more leveraged than we usually would be.

Unidentified Analyst


Mark A. Houser

Yes, the parent would, the question was whether the parents is ever taking units back in exchange for property and answer to that is yes. The parent or investors in the funds have done that before, few years ago, of course, they did it on the IPO, and then also done it one other time where they have taken units, we would consider that. Yes.

Unidentified Analyst


Mark A. Houser

As we sit here right now the properties that EnerVest generally has are pretty much in parallel with the properties that EVEP has in terms of content, mostly gas, some gas liquids, the type of properties we look to drop-down would be some dry gas and some natural gas liquid, gassy with some natural gas liquid content. As an example the Austin Chalk, the San Juan Basin, which has some natural gas liquids to it, Michigan which is dry gas, those are some areas that over time we’re going to look to do drop-downs out of the EnerVest fund.

So not a lot of oil properties in the mix. We have – frankly we’re kind of agnostic as to commodity that might be a weakness of ours, but we’ve just found we are better at buying some properties and others and when we look to buy oil properties, so often – the seemingly high premium being paid, we have trouble justifying although again looking back some of those decisions may have been good ones. We just had better luck buying more gassy properties, but we are open to whatever is there, but within EnerVest most of the properties there will be gas.

Okay, well, thank you all, and you all have a good evening.

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