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Gastar Sharpens Hunton Limestone Focus with Sale

Gastar Exploration Ltd. is selling about 76,000 net acres in Kingfisher and Canadian counties in Oklahoma for $62 million and also agreed to swap acreage with the undisclosed buyer so that both might concentrate their positions, the company said Tuesday.

The acres to be sold are part of the undeveloped leases that Gastar acquired in June in a transaction with former partner Chesapeake Energy Corp., including drilling rights on about 157,000 net acres in Oklahoma with about 2.8 million boe of proved developed producing (PDP) reserves (see Shale Daily, April 2).

Gastar said its partner in its original area of mutual interest (AMI) in Oklahoma has elected to acquire 12,820 net acres for $12.1 million that had been acquired from Chesapeake. The purchase includes 400,000 boe representing 50% of the PDP reserves associated with the wells acquired from Chesapeake in the existing AMI.

"When we pursued the Chesapeake property package earlier this year, our analysis indicated that some of the leasehold acreage was outside our targeted Hunton Limestone objective but potentially prospective for other formations being pursued by other operators," said Gastar CEO Russell Porter. "Through this sale, we are able to monetize all of our noncore acreage in Oklahoma at a very attractive valuation."

Following the transactions, Gastar said it would own all of the PDP reserves acquired in the Chesapeake transaction outside the existing AMI and 50% of the PDP reserves inside the existing AMI, along with drilling rights on the remaining 70,206 net acres acquired from Chesapeake. Gastar has an additional 59,390 gross acres (24,584 net) acquired earlier in the original joint venture as part of a program to develop the Hunton Limestone in Oklahoma. Accounting for both transactions, Gastar's total acreage in the Hunton Limestone play would be 136,772 gross (96,684 net) acres.

"The Chesapeake transaction assumed a cost of about $41 million for the undeveloped lease acreage and approximately $33.2 million for the developed and producing acreage, so we are pleased to be retaining all our key acreage and the producing reserves while recouping most of the total investment," Porter said.

The transactions improve Gastar's liquidity so it can focus on the Hunton Limestone as well as the Marcellus Shale (see Shale Daily, Aug. 9, 2012), Porter said. "We have a substantial inventory of attractive and liquids-focused projects, as well as the financial liquidity to actively drill these opportunities. Currently, we are closely monitoring the early results of our initial Hunton Limestone wells in Oklahoma and participating in the drilling of two additional nonoperated Hunton wells.

"We remain encouraged that our second well has continued to maintain strong production levels even with its natural production decline, while the third and fourth wells are still on flowback. Although we have had some additional compressor problems on the two most recent completions, the flowback fluid volumes are high, and the oil cut continues to gradually increase."

Gastar said it also has extended to July 12 the closing of its East Texas properties sale to Cubic Energy to give Cubic more time to secure financing (see Shale Daily, April 23).

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