PetroBakken plans $675-million in capital spending in 2013 to boost output

CALGARY – PetroBakken Energy Ltd. has budgeted $675 million for capital projects this year, with a focus on growing production from the Cardium formation in west-central Alberta.

That’s a big drop from the $975 million the Calgary-based light oil producer spent in 2012. About $100 million of this year’s spending was moved up to the end of 2012 to take advantage of oilfield services during the winter drilling season.

“Our initial capital plan (including the acceleration of $100 million into 2012) is materially lower than previous years, which we believe to be prudent given the current price volatility and wider light oil differentials being experienced by the industry,” the company said in a release.

“Our capital plan may be adjusted throughout the year to take into account changes to realized prices and service costs.”

In addition to the Cardium, PetroBakken will also make investments in the Bakken light oil formation that straddles the Canada-U.S. border, as well as in conventional oil and gas in southeastern Saskatchewan.

PetroBakken says it produced the equivalent of 53,200 barrels of oil a day on average in December, which was six per cent above the same month of 2011.

It’s aiming to exit 2013 at about the same level, in a range of 49,000 to 52,000 barrels a day, but boost annual output by eight to 12 per cent above 2012.

In 2013, the company plans to spend $480 million — 71 per cent of the total capital budget — on drilling, completion and tie-in activities. A further $140 million is for facilities, optimization, workovers and sustaining capital.

On a geographic basis, about 60 per cent of the drilling will be in the Cardium formation. It will get $290 million, compared with $85 million allocated for the Bakken, $27 million for conventional projects in southeastern Saskatchewan and $78 million in Alberta and British Columbia.

The company’s former majority shareholder, Petrobank Energy and Resources (TSX:PBG), spun off its 56 per cent stake to Petrobank shareholders this month.

Desjardins Securities analyst Allan Stepa said PetroBakken is spending less than expected in 2013.

“Although the company’s program is significantly more conservative than we had forecast, with essentially flat year-over-year production growth, we note that more disciplined capital spending is somewhat prudent given current Canadian differentials and the company’s levered balance sheet,” he wrote in a research note.

“To that end, we believe investors will remain focused on PetroBakken’s ability to manage debt levels this year and to protect its eight-cent monthly dividend.”

PetroBakken shares were down 2.5 per cent at $10.03 Friday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.