Moving up the ladder to become the second largest acreage holder within the liquids-rich Bakken Shale oil play in North Dakota, Hess Corp. said Wednesday it has completed the acquisition of 167,000 net acres in the region from TRZ Energy LLC for $1.05 billion in cash.

The deal, which was announced in late November (see Shale Daily, Nov. 24), falls in line with the recent trend of producers targeting more liquid shale plays due to the better economics than currently found with natural gas.

The acquired properties have current net production of approximately 4,400 boe/d and are near Hess' existing acreage -- some of which it obtained for $445 million when it acquired American Oil and Gas Inc. in an all-stock transaction that closed last week. Hess now has approximately 752,000 net acres in the play, which puts it second to Continental Resources, which holds 864,559 Bakken acres.

The American transaction netted Hess approximately 85,000 net acres in the Bakken. American has operated or participated in the drilling of 22 gross (12.9 net) wells thus far in the Goliath project area in Williams County, ND, and is currently operating a four-rig drilling program. Including wells-in-progress, American has operated the drilling of a total of 16 gross (11.2 net wells) at Goliath, and six gross (1.7 net) wells have been drilled or are in progress by other operators. American operates and owns interests in five gross (3.05 net) currently producing wells.

The TRZ Energy deal was first announced less than a week after Williams Cos. agreed to pay $925 million to acquire 85,800 net acres in the Bakken Shale (see Shale Daily, Nov. 16). With producers flocking to the more liquid shale plays such as the Bakken and Eagle Ford, midstream providers are not far behind. Last month ONEOK Partners LP announced plans to invest $300-355 million in natural gas-related projects in the Bakken Shale through 2012 to accommodate growing production (see Shale Daily, Oct. 6).

In separate news, ONEOK Partners in July said it expected to spend around $700 million for natural gas liquids growth projects in the region (see Daily GPI, July 27).