Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Newfield Continues Transition to Oil Company

Newfield Exploration Co. said that in 2012 it will devote more of its capital expenditure (capex) program and boost production in natural gas liquids (NGL) and oil -- at the expense of natural gas -- as it looks to become an oil-weighted company by 2013.

CEO Lee Boothby told financial analysts Wednesday that the most notable part of Newfield's rig count plans was the company's decision to move rigs, for the short-term, from the unconventional Granite Wash formation in Texas to the Cana-Woodford Shale in Oklahoma's Anadarko Basin.

"It's going to be a pretty aggressive effort in the first half of 2012," Boothby said, adding that Newfield would focus "on wet gas condensate and oil targets that we believe will generate superior returns.

"The deeper portfolio of the Granite Wash that doesn't have the condensate yield; I would put that on the 'to be deferred to the future' discussion. We have no interest in pursuing that at this time. We don't have to -- our position is held by production."

Asked where the company might resume incremental activity sooner than others, COO Gary Packer said the Cana-Woodford and Bakken shales were lead candidates.

"The first dollar we would probably bring into the Bakken," Packer said. "It's not because it generates the highest returns, it's that right now we have some pretty material assessments going and I'd like to see some more activity and more results from the Central Basin horizontal program as well as the Cana program. Another area is our 20-acre infill play at Monument Butte. It generates superior returns, it's well understood and our regulatory and permitting environment is improved."

Packer declined to say whether the company was still leasing in the Cana-Woodford, where it owns 125,000 net acres and plans to deploy 10 rigs in 2012.

"Ten rigs running through 2016 will allow us to hold our position, assuming it stays where it is right now," Packer said.

Newfield announced Tuesday that it would spend $1.5-1.7 billion on capex in 2012, about $400 million (20%) less than the $2 billion it spent in 2011. About $500 million is to develop the Uinta Basin oil plays, particularly multiple horizontal wells in the Central Basin. It will also spend more than $500 million the Midcontinent.

Despite the large cut in capex, the company plans to ramp up production of oil and NGLs by more than 18% this year, from 19.7 million bbl to 23.3 million bbl, while slashing natural gas production nearly 15%, from 181.9 Bcf to 155.2 Bcf.

Newfield's net earnings more than tripled in 4Q2011 from a year ago to $68 million (51 cents/share) from $22 million (17 cents). It earned $539 million ($3.99/diluted share) in 2011, versus $523 million ($3.91) in 2010. Revenues for the fourth quarter were $677 million and $2.5 billion for the full 2011.

Oil and NGL production averaged 64,000 bpd during 4Q2011 -- about 16% higher from the previous quarter and 28% above 4Q2010 -- while natural gas production averaged 478 MMcf/d. For the full year, total production was 300 Bcfe, a 4% increase over the production volumes reached in 2010.

Newfield holds an estimated 340,000 in the south Alberta Bakken and another 250,000 acres in the Uinta. It also has significant positions in the Arkoma-Woodford (172,000 acres), Bakken (140,000 acres) and Cana-Woodford (125,000 acres).

Shares of Newfield stock were down $5.32 -- to $36.93/share, a decline of 12.59% -- on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday afternoon.

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