[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the June 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine.]

The Appalachian Basin may be one of the most cutthroat shale plays in the world, grappling with global competition, pipeline constraints and a consistently disappointing commodity price.

Paradoxically, operators within the basin cannot seem to contain themselves. Even after a season of pandemic sapped demand, production in the Marcellus and Utica shales was seemingly in a world of its own. While 2020’s natural gas prices cut about 1% of U.S. natural gas production, the Marcellus and Utica shale states of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania produced 33.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2020, a 5% increase year-over-year.

Appalachia’s song may seem somewhat familiar—a save-time-in-a-bottle melody. E&Ps are forced to keep gas in storage because of differential costs. Several major E&Ps are maintaining maintenance-level capex budgets this year. And rig activity is expected to change, perhaps by one or two rigs, according to Goldman Sachs. Companies such as Antero Resources Corp. and privately owned Northeast Natural Energy LLC are both prepping for an immutable natural gas price.

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