EQT lays off nearly one-fourth of its work force

PITTSBURGH — EQT Corp., the nation’s largest independent natural gas producer, has laid off nearly one-fourth of its work force.

In a news release, the Pittsburgh-based driller confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that it laid off 196 of its approximately 800 employees. EQT said it “is streamlining its business to improve operational effectiveness and create a more efficient and nimbler organization.”

The company said the downsizing includes dropping from 58 departments to 15.

The layoffs, EQT said, will save about $50 million of annual general and administrative costs.

EQT has undergone significant changes over the past year. Chief Executive Officer Toby Z. Rice launched a proxy battle last October, one that became public in December after EQT announced miserable third-quarter results. He and his brother, Derek, nominated seven new candidates for the board, who were approved in a shareholders vote at the company’s annual meeting in July. Toby Rice then was elected CEO.

The Rices and a third brother, Danny, who was on the 12-member board before the July vote, founded Rice Energy — an oil and gas firm — in 2008. EQT bought Southpointe-based Rice Energy in November 2017.

Before the sale, Danny Rice was CEO, Toby, chief operating officer, and Derek, vice president of exploration.

Toby Rice said in a statement Tuesday that this “action represents another significant milestone as we transform EQT into a modern, technology-driven and efficient natural gas producer.

“I’d like to thank those employees who are leaving for their contributions to EQT. We firmly believe this is a step we must take to create a more efficient organization and to enable our employees to succeed.”

EQT focuses its gas operations in the Appalachian Basin, operating mostly in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.