Noble Energy Inc. on Thursday capped its exit from the Appalachian Basin, announcing a deal to sell its remaining midstream interests there to private equity firm Quantum Energy Partners for $765 million.
The agreement follows Noble's move earlier this month to divest 385,000 net acres in Pennsylvania and West Virginia for $1.125 billion and another $100 million due in three payments. At the time, the buyer was undisclosed, but Quantum revealed Thursday that one of its portfolio companies had purchased those assets.
Noble, which has turned its U.S. onshore focus mostly to Texas and Colorado, struck a deal to divest its 50% interest in Cone Gathering LLC and its limited partnership units representing a 33.5% ownership interest in Cone Midstream Partners LP (CNNX). Cone Gathering owns the general partner of CNNX. The sale is expected to close in the third quarter.
As Noble has turned its attention to the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin, the Permian Basin's Delaware sub-basin and the Eagle Ford Shale, its exit from Appalachia began last year when a 50/50 Marcellus Shale joint venture (JV) with Consol Energy Inc. was dissolved. Cone was formed by the companies in 2014 to gather production from the JV acreage in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Cone operates 250 miles of pipeline and 91,000 hp of compression.
Noble said Thursday that its midstream efforts going forward would be focused on the DJ Basin and Delaware sub-basin. The upstream sale is expected to close in June and when combined with the midstream sale, Noble could realize up to $2 billion in proceeds from its Appalachian exit, well above the $1 billion-plus it had targeted.
Those proceeds, the company said, would be used to pay down debt from the $2.7 billion acquisition of Clayton Williams Energy Inc., which expanded its holdings in the Permian, as well as for development costs and other balance sheet items.
Consol and CNNX have had little to say about Noble's exit as the process has unfolded. But Consol's CEO Nicholas Deluliis told analysts during the company's first quarter earnings call earlier this month that the upstream sale should be viewed as a "bullish indicator," with the new ownership likely to continue developing the assets. Consol exited its JV with Noble in part to gain more control over the pace of its own development as it continues to transition away from coal into a pure-play exploration and production company.
Quantum said it has a "strong track record" of sponsoring and growing both upstream and midstream companies across the Appalachian Basin, and management said it is eager to begin working with Consol and CNNX.