Chesapeake Energy names new CEO

WHEELING – Looking to move beyond the controversy of Aubrey McClendon’s personal dealings in Upper Ohio Valley drilling operations, Chesapeake Energy named Robert “Doug” Lawler its new chief executive officer Monday.

Lawler, now a senior vice president for Anadarko Petroleum, will formally assume the position from Chesapeake Interim CEO Steven Dixon on June 17. Lawler will take over a company that reported a $940 million loss for stockholders for 2012. Fortunes improved as the year progressed, however, as the company reported $257 million in income for stockholders during the final three months of 2012.

The company’s financial situation seems to be showing more improvement, as Chesapeake earned $1.134 billion during the first quarter of 2013 – an increase of 35 percent compared to the same period in 2012.

“There is significant value in Chesapeake’s asset base, and the growth potential of the company is tremendous. I look forward to accelerating the momentum that the Chesapeake team has built to generate value for our shareholders in the years ahead,” Lawler said.

Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake remains the most active natural gas driller in the Upper Ohio Valley, and it is the only company with horizontal Marcellus shale wells in Ohio, Brooke or Hancock counties. Over the past few years, McClendon took a 2.5-percent personal interest in Chesapeake’s operations in Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties. This left some investors concerned because Chesapeake is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, while McClendon’s firms – Larchmont Resources and Jamestown Resources – are his own private businesses.

Now the company hopes to move beyond such issues with Lawler’s hiring, according to Chairman Archie W. Dunham.

“Doug is a talented and proven executive with the ideal skill set to lead Chesapeake forward and capitalize fully on our world-class assets. Throughout his 25 years in the upstream exploration and production industry, Doug has earned a reputation as a highly engaged and knowledgeable leader who delivers superior operational performance and capital efficiency,” Dunham said. “We look forward to working with him to create value for Chesapeake shareholders.”

Marcellus and Utica shale wells can yield a variety of dry methane natural gas, liquids such as ethane, propane and butane, as well as crude oil. Production levels from the Chesapeake Couch and Glenn Didriksen wells in Ohio County for the first three months of 2013 are highlighted in the company’s earnings report as follows:

The Couch 8H well, south of West Liberty just off state Route 88, produced 3.4 million cubic feet of dry methane natural gas, 505 barrels of oil and 290 barrels of natural gas liquids per day.

The Didriksen 1H, north of Oglebay Park just off Dement Road, produced 4.6 million cubic feet of natural gas, 395 barrels of oil and 195 barrels of NGL each day.

In the Ohio Utica shale, where Chesapeake recently opened field offices at Fox Commerce Park in St. Clairsville, the driller is now operating 14 rigs. The company already has drilled 249 wells, with 66 of these producing and 86 waiting on pipeline connections.