SM Energy Co. said it has agreed with undisclosed buyers to divest a portion of its Eagle Ford Shale position.

The Denver-based producer is selling a detached block of acreage composed of all of its operated acreage in LaSalle County, TX, as well as an immaterial portion of adjacent operated acreage in Dimmit County, TX.

About 15,400 net acres are being sold for cash proceeds of about $225 million, SM Energy said Monday. Due to limited infrastructure, there is currently no production associated with three wells that have been drilled on the acreage. As of year-end 2010, there was an immaterial amount of proved reserves booked for this acreage, the company said.

Buyers will be entitled to about 12% of the takeaway capacity associated with SM Energy's agreement with Eagle Ford Gathering LLC, a joint venture of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP and Copano Energy LLC (see Daily GPI, July 7, 2010). The sale is expected to close in August and is subject to customary price adjustments, closing conditions and fees.

SM Energy said it is continuing negotiations on additional potential transactions involving "a material portion" of its Eagle Ford position in South Texas. "I am extremely pleased with this first transaction from our Eagle Ford shale marketing effort," said SM Energy CEO Tony Best. "This agreement allows us to realize significant value for a relatively small portion of our total Eagle Ford position."

At the end of last year SM Energy's budget allocated 80% of the company's drilling capital to the Eagle Ford and Bakken/Three Forks plays (see Shale Daily, Dec. 27, 2010). The Eagle Ford will get the lion's share of spending at 60% of the drilling budget, with Bakken-Three Forks garnering 20% followed by the Granite Wash at 7%. The Permian Basin, the Haynesville Shale and the Niobrara/other oil categories round out the drilling budget of $830 million.

This spring Best outlined plans to step up development in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas and the Bakken-Three Forks formation while hoping to sell down Eagle Ford assets, secure a joint venture partner in the Haynesville Shale and exit the Marcellus Shale (see Shale Daily, April 15).

Recent buyers in the Eagle Ford include Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc., which agreed to pick up about 13,000 acres in a deal worth about $71.5 million (see Shale Daily, June 8). Less than a week before that, Marathon Oil Corp. agreed to pay $3.5 billion to acquire the Eagle Ford Shale assets of Hilcorp Resources Holdings LP (see Shale Daily, June 2).

The Eagle Ford is the second biggest year-over-year percentage gainer in drilling activity, according to NGI's Shale Daily Unconventional Rig Count. The Eagle Ford has charged a 111% increase in rig activity from a year ago, following only the Niobrara-Denver-Julesburg Basin, which has posted a 200% gain.

According to company reports, SM Energy is the ninth largest Eagle Ford acreage holder with 234,100 net acres. EOG Resources is the largest with 595,000 acres, followed by Apache Energy and Chesapeake Energy with 450,000 acres each and Newfield Exploration with 335,000 acres.