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Noble Pays Nearly $500M for Suncor's Eastern Colorado Assets

In a sign of renewed optimism in U.S. drilling, Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. last week agreed to pay $494 million to buy nearly all of the natural gas and oil reserves in eastern Colorado held by the U.S. arm of Canada's Suncor Energy Inc.

Calgary-based Suncor already held some acreage in the Greater Denver Julesburg (DJ) Basin of Colorado when it bought Petro-Canada Corp. in 2009. However, Suncor, an oilsands powerhouse and now Canada's largest producer, plans to focus on its core Canadian operations and wants to sell nearly C$4 billion of its total gas and oil assets this year, including around one-third of its North American properties (see NGI, Nov. 16, 2009).

The 340,000 net acres to be acquired by Noble are expected to strengthen the producer's core U.S. operations, said COO David Stover. Nearly 200,000 acres are in the Wattenberg Field in the Greater DJ Basin, which is Noble's largest onshore U.S. asset. The Wattenberg Field straddles Colorado's Weld, Adams, Larimer, Broomfield and Boulder counties.

"We now control a leasehold position of over 530,000 net acres in the central DJ Basin with net production approaching 52,000 boe/d," said Stover.

Total proved, probable and possible resources are estimated at 103 million boe/d. Noble also has identified "several thousand" projects associated with the new assets, including more than 2,000 drilling locations in the Codel/Niobrara area of the DJ Basin. Noble plans to add two rigs to its Wattenberg operations this year, which would increase operated drilling activity in the field to eight rigs.

Production currently is 10,000 boe/d, which includes 46 MMcf/d of gas and 2,500 b/d of liquids. However, net output from the assets to be acquired is expected to double to 20,000 boe/d by 2012, with a focus on increasing the liquids contribution, Noble said.

The transaction, which Noble plans to fund with debt, is expected to close by the end of March.

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