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Pittsburgh expo unites shale drillers with landowners

| Friday, April 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the North America Prospect Expo-East, people from the oil and gas industry walk and talk amidst the various booths, Thursday, April 11th, 2013, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the North America Prospect Expo-East, Edward Bilik and Meagan Bilik Defazio work together at the Western Pennsylvania Gas Leasing Consultants, LLC, on Thursday, April 11th, 2013, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Bilik is the manager of the Greensburg company, while his daughter, Bilik Defazio, is a member. The two, like many people from the oil and gas industry who attended the event, were hoping to build alliances and partnerships.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the North America Prospect Expo-East, Lori Thierfeldt talks with William Smith, on Thursday, April 11th, 2013, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Thierfeldt is an attorney from New York, representing a landowner's group, while Smith is director of the Landowner Group Development for CX-Energy, a Wexford company that deals with oil and gas leasing solutions. The two, like many people from the oil and gas industry who attended the event, were hoping to build alliances and partnerships.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the North America Prospect Expo-East, one of the many booths at the event belonged to CX-Energy, a Wexford company that deals with oil and gas leasing solutions, Thursday, April 11th, 2013, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the North America Prospect Expo-East, people from the oil and gas industry walk and talk amidst the various booths, Thursday, April 11th, 2013, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Bill Hayward went Downtown on Thursday hoping to make the deal of a lifetime.

Hayward, 59, a geologist from White Oak, is trying sell gas rights that he and a business partner own in a Marcellus shale hot spot. The asking price: $30 million.

Hopes and dreams as big as Hayward's can become reality at the North America Prospect Expo, a swap meet for the oil and gas industry that's spending three days at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this week, the first time it's been held outside of Houston.

The event gives local companies — and even residents — a chance to negotiate potentially lucrative deals for the sale of land or gas rights directly with drillers. Here, everything from computer software to land is for sale. Drillers even have a shot at buying a luxury farm estate — complete with gas rights — in Robinson, Washington County, on the market for $8.3 million.

“It's kind of a flea market for drilling prospects,” said Ben Wallace, chief operating officer at Penneco Oil Co. in Delmont. “There are spare hubcaps all over.”

The American Association of Professional Landmen started the expo in Houston in 1993, growing it to nearly 17,000 attendees this year, said S. Craig Young, the expo's senior director. With an oil and gas boom heating up nationwide, organizers made a two-year commitment to hold satellite events in Pittsburgh and Denver starting this year. They had more than 1,800 people registered to attend in Pittsburgh, Young said.

While many of the conferences focus on technology and presentations, this expo focuses on prospects and service companies, Young said. Organizers chose Pittsburgh because of the rush of drilling throughout Appalachia, he said.

What started with one company drilling a horizontal well in the Marcellus shale eight years ago has developed into dozens of companies drilling thousands of wells in several shale layers across four states.

The big wave of leasing for the Marcellus shale gas rush is past, but there's still a lot of room for land deals. Many of the leases signed at the height of the land rush around 2008 are about to expire, but there are still potential hot spots in the Utica shale north of Pittsburgh.

“It's like store inventory,” Young said. “Eventually your inventory is going to shrink because your product is being consumed. So you're always looking to build up the net assets of the company.”

Hayward and his partner own 3.1 percent of the gas rights on 28,000 acres in the Marcellus region of north-central Pennsylvania. The sale would give them cash they need for oil prospecting in Tennessee.

Several local companies attended, with some getting to make 12-minute sales pitches to all the attendees at the end of conference sessions held on the first day of the event on Wednesday. The expo runs through Friday.

Both CX-Energy of Wexford and Western Pennsylvania Gas Leasing Consultants LLC of Greensburg have signed up landowners into cooperatives trying to lease tens of thousands of acres of gas rights north of Pittsburgh, especially in Crawford County.

CX-Energy had a steady stream of production company officials, and Western Pennsylvania Gas Leasing Consultants had a steady stream of geologists visiting throughout Thursday morning, their company officials said. Pittsburgh companies would benefit from this kind of event every year where they know buyers are going to be interested specifically in Appalachian opportunities, they said.

Houston's “NAPE is more like a needle in a haystack,” said Christopher Cracraft, a director of landowner group development at CX-Energy, a division of Co-eXprise Inc. “Here we have a good chance. This gives us all the opportunity we need to make that (sale) for our landowners.”

While anybody could have paid about $200 to attend the expo, nearly all the people there came from the corporate world, including the companies like CX-Energy that are representing large groups of landowners. Oil and gas deals are too complicated to put together on the spot, so much of conversation happens just to lay groundwork for deals, Young said.

The people looking to sell have to wait at their booths for potential buyers to come to them, Young said. Hayward, the prospector from White Oak, talked to about 100 people. He said he believes about 30 to 40 of them could be legitimate buyers down the road.

”For a man like me, of course I would rather stand in Pittsburgh to sell this rather than chase to Houston,” Hayward said. “This is the perfect venue for us.”

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991. or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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