Kelt Exploration Ltd. is taking advantage of energy market doldrums to bulk up as one of a handful of Canadian oil producers that have had little trouble attracting capital in good times and bad.
Kelt, known for its Montney natural gas operations in British Columbia and Alberta, said it is boosting 2015 capital spending by 9 per cent to $495-million and raising $75.2-million in a share issue.
The moves follow a $280-million acquisition of Artek Exploration Ltd. earlier this year, which bolstered its land position in the Inga-Fireweed-Stoddart area of northeastern B.C.
Much of the increased spending is earmarked for more drilling and to build pipelines and other infrastructure to get supplies to market.
Many of the company's competitors have been forced to slash spending, offload assets and even cut staff to deal with the oil market collapse.
"We just ended up with some really good results on the B.C. property, and we're now directing a lot of the money into B.C. that would have went into Alberta until we get some clarity on what the ground rules are in Alberta," said Kelt chief executive officer David Wilson.
The company has reduced its planned spending in Alberta by 23 per cent, contracting to 7.7 net wells from 10. It now plans to boost B.C. drilling to eight net wells from the previous 1.4.
Alberta's new NDP government has promised a review of the oil and gas royalty structure, something energy executives have said raises uncertainty for investments. Government officials have said the review would start within six months, and have promised a collaborative approach with the industry.
Kelt is among a group of producers whose strong finances have allowed it to benefit from the downturn by acquiring assets and properties without paying top dollar. Mr. Wilson and his colleagues started up the company after selling their previous venture, Celtic Exploration, to Exxon Mobil Corp. for $2.6-billion in 2012.
"When everybody's got access to money, things just get so competitive," Mr. Wilson said. "Now, the competition kind of goes away and you can get stuff that is reasonably priced. And everything is reasonably priced – services, land, acquisitions. Everything comes back to normality or it's even cheaper than it normally is."
He said the announcement last week of a conditional green light by Malaysia's Petronas for an $11.4-billion liquefied natural gas plant on the B.C. coast gives Kelt more confidence in the long-term prospects for natural gas as in its main operations in the province.
The company has sold 8.5 million shares at $8.85 apiece in a bought deal to a syndicate led by Peters & Co. Ltd. The issue is said to have sold out. An overallotment option, if exercised, would boost the proceeds to $86.5-million.
Kelt also did a non-brokered private placement with directors, officers and other employees for proceeds of $3.5-million.
It plans to use proceeds of the issues to pay down credit facilities and help fund the increased budget.