Shale bankruptcies pile on, Lonestar latest to succumb to weak demand

(Reuters) – Lonestar Resources US Inc LONE.O filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday, joining a clutch of shale companies that have succumbed to weak crude prices as COVID-19 pandemic crimps fuel demand.

Lonestar, which operates in Texas’ Eagle Ford basin and produced roughly 14,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, had a total debt of $546.3 million as of June 30 and made the move after defaulting on two debt payments.

Shares of the company fell 13% to 20 cents, shrinking its market capitalization to just over $5 million from nearly $350 million at its peak in 2014.

Weak crude demand due to the pandemic has proved to be a double-whammy for shale companies, which grew rapidly early in the decade but in the process amassed a large pile of debt.

Through the end of August, 36 oil and gas producers with $51 billion debt have filed for bankruptcy this year, according to the law firm Haynes and Boone.

It includes Chesapeake Energy CHKAQ.PK, Chaparral Energy CHAP.N, Whiting Petroleum Corp WLL.N. Oasis Petroleum Inc OAS.O filed for Chapter 11 on Tuesday.

Industry experts expect more companies to file for bankruptcy before the year is over.

Gas producer Gulfport Energy Corp GPOR.O, which has hired a debt restructuring adviser, has interest payments on its debt due on Oct. 15, Nov. 1 and Nov. 15.

The upcoming biannual review of how much money energy companies can borrow against the value of their oil and gas reserves can also push some of the smaller companies, already struggling to find other methods of financing, into bankruptcy.

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