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Noble Reports Offshore Discovery, Progress in DJ Basin and Marcellus

While reporting reduced year-over-year quarterly earnings, Noble Energy Inc. senior executives on Thursday talked up a 56% collective production increase for the company's Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin and Marcellus Shale properties in 2Q2014 and a new exploration discovery at the Katmai prospect in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).

CEO Charles Davidson and COO David Stover provided updates on various onshore and offshore operations during a conference call with financial analysts in which they reported 2Q2014 net income of $192 million, or 52 cents/share, compared with $377 million, or $1.04/share, for the same period last year. Davidson said there was "continued great progress on numerous fronts" despite the slide in earnings results.

Noble expects final well results by the end of August on the GOM discovery in Green Canyon that Davidson called "a commercial discovery and another project to work on," with the only question being "how big will this discovery become." The primary target is set at 28,000 feet, he said.

Davidson said Noble's plans calls for its deepwater GOM production to double over the next several years.

For the DJ Basin and Marcellus Shale plays, horizontal production collectively for Noble's assets was 112,000 boe/d, a 56% increase over similar production in last year's second quarter. "We also are extremely encouraged by the results from new-well completion designs in both core areas that look very positive for both resource and production upside," said Davidson, touting "record production and double-digit growth" in the near future.

Stover said Noble is treating the DJ Basin assets "as a really major project," and he expects the results to accelerate in the fourth quarter. "The biggest thing I am seeing is the potential [advancements] in completions, whether in the DJ Basin or the Marcellus," he said. "There is probably more opportunity here as we continue to fine-tune and enhance completions than I previously understood. We are putting a lot of science into it."

Noble has been learning from experimenting this year in both areas, and Stover said he expects it "to pay huge dividends."

Stover emphasized results from the company's new completion design showing a 50% increase in production compared to the traditional complete design being used. "There is still a lot to learn here, but for now there is some very strong early encouragement [that we are on the right track],” he said in regard to the testing in the DJ Basin.

In the Marcellus, similar advanced techniques resulted in an average net production of 250 MMcf/d in 2Q2014, Stover said. "This week, a joint venture production project ramped north of 700 MMcf/d gross, an increase of 40% in the last couple of months, and more than 100% from this time last year."

He and Davidson stressed wet gas production was increased by as much as 10% in the Majorsville area of the Marcellus. New completion and spacing designs being tried were attributed to the success, Stover said.

One of the analysts asked for more details on the proposed master limited partnership for Noble's midstream assets in the Marcellus, but Davidson declined to give any, citing Securities and Exchange Commission restrictions since the company's public announcement on the proposal (see Shale Daily, June 12).

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