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HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 16, 1999--The Houston Exploration Company (NYSE NYSE

See: New York Stock Exchange
:THX A design system that provides realistic sound playback for movie and home theater from THX, Ltd., San Rafael, CA (, an independent spin-off from Lucasfilm, Ltd. The THX Sound System was developed during the production of the Return of the Jedi in 1982 and named after George ) today announced that it has signed a definitive operating agreement An operating agreement is an agreement among limited liability company ("LLC") members governing the LLC's business, and Member's financial and management rights and duties. No state requires an LLC to have an Operating agreement.  establishing a joint venture drilling program to explore and develop its 55 undeveloped leases in the Gulf of Mexico Noun 1. Gulf of Mexico - an arm of the Atlantic to the south of the United States and to the east of Mexico
Golfo de Mexico

Atlantic, Atlantic Ocean - the 2nd largest ocean; separates North and South America on the west from Europe and Africa on the east
. Under the terms of the agreement, KeySpan Exploration & Production, LLC (Logical Link Control) See "LANs" under data link protocol.

LLC - Logical Link Control
, a wholly-owned subsidiary of KeySpan Energy Corporation (NYSE:KSE KSE Karachi Stock Exchange
KSE Kuwait Stock Exchange
KSE Korea Stock Exchange
KSE Kernel Scheduler Entities
KSE Kill Switch Engage (band)
KSE Kuat Systems Engineering (Star Wars) 
), will purchase 45 percent of Houston Exploration's working interest in these undeveloped leases and provide up to $100 million of capital per annum Per annum

 for the leases, exploration drilling, development drilling, and platform and facility construction each year over the next three years. The program has an effective date of January 1, 1999.

"We are pleased with this structure," said James G. Floyd, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Houston Exploration Company. "This offshore joint venture drilling program will allow us to accelerate drilling the undeveloped acreage while increasing our exposure to a greater number of prospects on a timely basis. These are two important operating criteria for our continued success. In addition, this structure helps satisfy our capital needs on an upfront basis, which is particularly helpful as the capital markets have become more constrained."

Mr. Robert B. Catell, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The KeySpan Energy Corporation, said, "KeySpan's participation in this joint venture program is an excellent complement to the company's 64 percent equity ownership in The Houston Exploration Company. Since we started Houston Exploration in 1986, its staff of experienced professionals has established an outstanding record of success and operational expertise in the offshore Gulf of Mexico. By participating in this joint venture program, we have a direct investment in assets in the Gulf of Mexico, which should enhance our returns to shareholders and support our strategy of developing reserves."

Under the terms of the joint venture program, KeySpan Energy Corporation will reimburse The Houston Exploration Company for its 45 percent interest in 55 undeveloped federal leases in the Gulf of Mexico held by Houston Exploration. The leases were principally acquired through federal lease sales. Prior to this program, Houston Exploration held a 100 percent working interest in a majority of the 55 undeveloped leases. Houston Exploration will serve as operator and manager for all activities and operating costs operating costs nplgastos mpl operacionales  will be shared on a working interest basis in accordance with COPAS COPAS Council Of Petroleum Accountants Societies
COPAS Centre for Ocean Research in the Eastern South Pacific
COPAS Chilean Center for Ocean Research

The term of the program will be three years, with an annual 60-day cancellation provision whereby each company retains the right to conclude the program. At the conclusion of the program, any remaining undeveloped leases will be reassigned back to Houston Exploration and developed leases will be owned on a working interest basis and operated under customary offshore operating agreements. Offshore leases acquired in lease sales subsequent to the start of the joint program will not be part of the program.

"We are excited about this program," said Mr. Floyd, "which will enable us to pursue these potential reserves on a more efficient basis. The timing is excellent given today's lower operating-cost environment."

"There is tremendous potential in this program to develop the natural gas resource base which will be a critical supply area of the growing Northeast gas market," added Mr. Catell. "As both an energy distribution company and shareholder in Houston Exploration, we are very pleased with this joint drilling program."

The Houston Exploration Company (NYSE:THX) is a Houston-based independent natural gas and oil company engaged in the exploration, development and acquisition of domestic natural gas and oil properties. The company's offshore properties are located in the Gulf of Mexico and its onshore properties are located in South Texas, the Arkoma basin, South Louisiana, East Texas, and West Virginia West Virginia, E central state of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland (N), Virginia (E and S), and Kentucky and, across the Ohio R., Ohio (W). Facts and Figures

Area, 24,181 sq mi (62,629 sq km). Pop.
. Information on the company can be found on the company's web site at ( ).

This news release contains forward-looking statements forward-looking statement

A projected financial statement based on management expectations. A forward-looking statement involves risks with regard to the accuracy of assumptions underlying the projections.
 within the meaning of the Securities Litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.

When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation.
 Reform Act that involve risks and uncertainties, including price volatility, development, operational, implementation and opportunity risks, and other factors described from time to time in the company's publicly available SEC reports, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those expected.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:0GULF
Date:Mar 16, 1999
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