Saturn Oil & Gas, drilling near Manor on June 16. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Multi-lateral wells with lots of legs are becoming the ‘in thing’ in southeast Saskatchewan

A day after the Government of Saskatchewan announced a new multi-lateral well incentive program, the reason behind it was reinforced by Saturn Oil & Gas’ announcement that it, too, had begun drilling eight-leg wells in the Bakken.

Those first two seven- and eight-leg multilateral wells averaged 168.5 barrels of oil equivalent per day over their first 30 days of production. That’s double the IP30 numbers for their Frobisher and Midale wells in southeast Saskatchewan. Two more of these multi-lateral wells are in the works, as part of the company’s largest development plan to date.

Saturn Oil & Gas Inc. (TSX: SOIL)(FSE: SMKA)(OTCQX: OILSF) reported its financial and operating results for the three and twelve months ended December 31, 2023 the evening of March 12.

“2023 was a tremendous year of progress for Saturn in creating a substantial and sustainable free cash generating enterprise. In addition to doubling our production base over last year, we have assembled a deep inventory of high-quality development drilling locations to sustain current production levels for decades,” said John Jeffrey, chief executive officer. “Saturn has maintained its strategic focus on developing light oil focused assets and optimizing our cost structure to deliver some of the highest cash flow margins in Canada, and to further our ultimate goal of shareholder value creation.”

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2023 Fourth Quarter and Annual Highlights:

  • Delivered record crude oil and natural gas production with fourth quarter 2023 averaging 26,891 boe/d (82% oil and NGLs), compared to 12,514 boe/d (96% oil and NGLs) in the fourth quarter of 2022, an increase of 115%;
  • Generated quarterly adjusted EBITDA(1) of $100.1 million compared to $62.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2022, an increase of 61%;
  • Achieved record quarterly adjusted funds flow(1) of $80.2 million compared to $50.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2022, an increase of 58%;
  • Invested $57.2 million of capital expenditures(1) in the fourth quarter, drilling 19 (16.9 net) horizontal wells;
  • Generated free funds flow(1) of $23.1 million in the fourth quarter 2023, compared to $15.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2022, an increase of 53%; and
  • Exited 2023 with net debt(1) of $460.5 million, realizing a net debt to fourth quarter annualized adjusted funds flow(1) of 1.4x.
Three months ended December 31, Year ended December 31,
(CAD $000s, except per share amounts) 2023 2022 2023 2022
FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS
Petroleum and natural gas sales 185,384 111,558 693,891 367,957
Cash flow from operating activities 75,380 58,100 283,988 102,314
Operating netback, net of derivatives(1) 104,328 64,661 382,890 153,450
Adjusted EBITDA(1) 100,092 62,191 363,143 146,740
Adjusted funds flow(1) 80,247 50,729 278,138 118,658
per share – Basic 0.58 0.85 2.20 2.67
– Diluted 0.56 0.84 2.15 2.64
Free funds flow(1) 23,072 15,053 147,565 29,553
per share – Basic 0.17 0.25 1.17 0.67
– Diluted 0.16 0.25 1.14 0.66
Net income (loss) 131,456 (16,728) 290,623 74,815
per share – Basic 0.94 (0.28) 2.30 1.68
– Diluted 0.92 (0.28) 2.25 1.66
Net Debt(1), end of period 460,483 219,803 460,483 219,803
Three months ended December 31, Year ended December 31,
(CAD $000s, except per share amounts) 2023 2022 2023 2022
OPERATING HIGHLIGHTS
Average production volumes
Crude oil (bbls/d) 19,407 11,590 18,177 8,841
NGLs (bbls/d) 2,533 428 1,992 353
Natural gas (mcf/d) 29,704 2,971 24,559 2,392
Total boe/d 26,891 12,514 24,262 9,593
% Oil and NGLs 82% 96% 83% 96%
Average realized prices
Crude oil ($/bbl) 95.09 103.03 96.75 111.84
NGLs ($/bbl) 44.21 51.47 43.75 58.41
Natural gas ($/mcf) 2.49 5.36 2.77 5.57
Processing expenses ($/boe) (0.61) (1.56) (0.53) (1.52)
Petroleum and natural gas sales ($/boe) 74.93 96.90 78.35 105.09
Operating netback ($/boe)
Petroleum and natural gas sales 74.93 96.90 78.35 105.09
Royalties (9.75) (9.57) (9.10) (13.61)
Net operating expenses(1) (18.17) (22.42) (20.33) (24.67)
Transportation expenses (1.25) (0.45) (1.28) (0.61)
Operating netback(1) 45.76 64.46 47.64 66.20
Realized loss on derivatives (3.59) (8.29) (4.41) (22.38)
Operating netback, net of derivatives(1) 42.17 56.17 43.23 43.82
Common shares outstanding, end of period 139,313 59,892 139,313 59,892
Weighted average, basic 139,313 59,869 126,230 44,402
Weighted average, diluted 142,292 60,363 129,225 44,955

 

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In 2023, Saturn achieved its third consecutive year of growth in production and cash flow from operations:

  • Average production increased 153% to 24,262 boe/d, compared to 9,593 boe/d average production in 2022;
  • Adjusted EBITDA(1) increased 147% to $363.1 million, compared to $146.7 million in 2022; and
  • Adjusted funds flow(1) increased 134% to $278.1 million, compared to $118.7 million in 2022.

During 2023, Saturn successfully drilled and rig released a total of 59 gross (48.8 net) horizontal wells across its four core operating areas, comprised of:

  • 28 gross (25.2 net) wells in Southeast Saskatchewan;
  • 19 gross (14.3 net) wells in West Central Saskatchewan;
  • 8 gross (5.3 net) wells in Central Alberta; and
  • 4 gross (4.0 net) wells in North Alberta.

The February acquisition of privately held oil and gas producer, Ridgeback Resources Inc. was a key contributor to Saturn’s growth in 2023, the company said, adding 670 net sections of land featuring development opportunities to sustain the company’s production going forward. “The acquisition of Ridgeback was highly synergistic to the company’s existing Southeast Saskatchewan assets expanding its high cash flow, light oil production base by approximately 65%; more than doubling the light oil reserve volumes in the area; and added a large undeveloped land position featuring Bakken light oil resource that Saturn can continue to develop. In addition to growing the company’s Saskatchewan footprint, the acquisition also expanded Saturn’s operations into Alberta’s prolific Cardium, Kaybob and Swan Hills areas.”

The company has continued to focus on streamlining its cost structure by reducing overall royalties, decreasing operating costs and improving average hedging pricing:

  • Average royalties decreased to 11.5% in 2023, compared 12.8% in 2022;
  • Average net operating expenses(1) decreased 18% to $20.33 per boe in 2023, compared to $24.67 per boe in 2022; and
  • Average realized loss on derivatives decreased 80% to $4.41 per boe in 2023, compared to $22.38 in 2022.

In light of the above cost reduction impacts, the company’s 2023 operating netback(1), net of derivatives of $43.23 per boe, was comparable to the $43.82 per boe in 2022, despite an approximately 17% drop in the average benchmark WTI oil price to US $77.60 in 2023, compared to an average WTI oil price of US $94.25 in 2022.

Saturn drilled as operator in 2023, 47 gross (45.2 net) wells, with the results of the 46 gross operated wells that were placed on production summarized in the table below:

Gross Wells Drilled by Formation (number): Avg. IP30 per Location(boe/d) 2023 GuidanceType Curve

(boe/d)

Performance vs. Type Curve(%) Total Gross Capital Invested($MM) Capital Efficiency($ per boe/d)
SE Sask – Frob. & Midale (10) 80.4 69.0 +17 13.2 16,420
SE Sask – Spearfish (6) 89.2 77.0 +16 7.1 13,270
SE Sask – Stimulated Bakken (7) 109.7 101.0 +9 12.3 16,020
SE Sask – OHML Bakken (2) 168.5 147.0 +15 4.6 13,650
WC Sask – Viking (12) 97.9 68.0 +44 19.4 16,510
Central AB – Lochend Cardium (3) 279.0 260.0 +7 17.7 21,150
Central AB – Pembina (2) 239.5 248.0 -3 9.4 19,620
North AB – Montney (4) 314.4 330.0 -5 14.3 11,390
Weighted Average 134.6 121.0 +11 98.0 15,830

 

Commitment to Debt Repayment

On February 28, 2023, the company expanded its senior term loan by $375.0 million in relation to the acquisition of Ridgeback. Saturn continues to prioritize the rapid repayment of its senior term loan, and in 2023, the company made principal payments totaling approximately $164.5 million, with additional aggregate payments of approximately $50.7 million made to date in 2024, for a total of $215.2 million of principal payments since December 31, 2022. The company said it intends to continue directing free cash flow to ongoing debt repayment and balance sheet strengthening.

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Southeast Saskatchewan

In Q4 of 2023, Saturn rig released six gross (4.6 net) Bakken wells, of which two gross wells (2.0 net) were drilled as open hole multi-lateral (OHML) wells. These OHML wells feature seven to eight horizontal legs per well and represent the first on which Saturn has deployed this innovative drilling technique. The company’s Bakken light oil development has been a strong addition to its capital program in Southeast Saskatchewan, it said, where Saturn has already successfully drilled a total of 11 gross (9.1 net) Bakken wells in 2023. Saturn has 197 net booked Bakken drilling locations (including 16.9 net OHML locations) and has identified over 100 net unbooked Bakken wells for future development.

Saturn successfully drilled three gross (2.3 net) Frobisher wells in Q4 of 2023 for an annual total of 11 gross (10.1 net) Mississippian wells, including two gross (1.9 net) Midale wells, which collectively outperformed IP30 type curve expectations by 17%, the company said. The six gross (6.0 net) Spearfish wells drilled in 2023 were a highlight of the year’s development program, outperforming IP30 type curve expectations by 16%, while experiencing lower than expected declines. Further budgeted development of Frobisher and Spearfish light oil is expected to be a prominent component of Saturn’s 2024 capital investment plan.

For the three months ended December 31, 2023, the Company’s Southeast Saskatchewan assets collectively averaged 12,550 boe/d of production, an increase of 67% from 7,522 boe/d in the comparative 2022 period.

West Central Saskatchewan

The company added a third rig to the fourth quarter development plan in order to extend the drilling success of its Viking light oil targets in West Central Saskatchewan, adding four additional wells with 100% working interest. In 2023 Saturn successfully drilled 19 gross (14.3 net) Viking wells and continued to follow up on its best performing areas of Hershel and Plato with 12 operated wells. These 12 wells were drilled with 100% working interest, had an average IP30 of 97.9 bbls/d of light oil, which outperformed the type curve expectations by 44%. Saturn has 165 net locations booked for future Viking development.

The company’s West Central Saskatchewan assets averaged 3,504 boe/d of production for the three months ended December 31, 2023, compared to 4,992 boe/d in the prior year.

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Central Alberta

Saturn successfully drilled three Cardium horizontal wells in the fourth quarter of 2023, with 100% working interest, for a total of eight gross (5.3 net) Cardium wells being rig released in 2023. The 2023 Cardium wells drilled by Saturn were Extended Reach Horizontal (ERH) wells having an average lateral length of 2.2 miles. Five of the Saturn operated Cardium wells were put on production in Q4 of 2023, with IP30 rates consistent with type cure expectations, and delivering approximately 1,316 boe/d in aggregate during the first 30 days on production. The 6th Cardium well drilled in late 2023 has now been completed along with an additional three gross (3.0 net) ERH Cardium wells drilled to date in 2024. The four new wells are expected to be brought online before the end of Q1 2024. In total during 2024, Saturn expects to drill eight net Cardium ERH wells.

For the three months ended December 31, 2023, the company’s Central Alberta assets produced an average of 8,066 boe/d.

North Alberta

In December 2023, the company brought on production a four well pad in Kaybob, with 100% working interest to Saturn. The four wells were within expectations of the Montney type curve for this area and delivered an IP30 rate of approximately 1,254 boe/d in aggregate. Saturn plans to drill an additional four well pad in Kaybob during 2024.

For the three months ended December 31, 2023, the company’s North Alberta assets produced an average of 2,771 boe/d.

ESG Initiatives

Saturn said it continued its dedication to responsible environmental stewardship by directing approximately $10.7 million in 2023 to decommissioning expenditures, including the abandonment of 114 wells that no longer had economic production potential, amounting to approximately 2x the number of gross new wells the company drilled in 2023.

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Outlook

Saturn’s Board of Directors has approved the company’s largest ever development plan in 2024, with a budget of approximately $145.6 million targeting the drilling of up to 61 net wells. With Saturn’s extensive pipeline network and facilities infrastructure within each of its core operating areas, the company said it has ample capacity to handle incremental new production coming on-stream. Over 85% of the company’s 2024 development capital expenditures will be directed to drilling, completions, equipping and tie-in of new production.

Through the first quarter of 2024, the company employed a full-time rig in Southeast Saskatchewan, resulting in the drilling of five gross (5.0 net) conventional wells (two Frobisher, two Spearfish, one Tilston) all of which have been put onto production. The company is now drilling the first of two Bakken OHML wells that will continue through the first half of 2024 with 100% working interest to Saturn.

 

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