An affiliate of Aubrey McClendon's American Energy Partners LP has up to $500 million in private equity (PE) commitments to pursue working stakes in "various onshore basins," the producer said Wednesday.

American Energy-NonOp LLC (AENO), like the privately held parent corporation, is headquartered in Oklahoma City, where McClendon co-founded and once led Chesapeake Energy Corp.

PE funds are being provided by frequent McClendon collaborator The Energy & Minerals Group (EMG), based in Houston. EMG CEO John T. Raymond worked with McClendon when he helmed Chesapeake, and his firm has continued to support the start-up explorer.

Last year EMG was the lead equity investor in providing McClendon's company with close to $1.7 billion in financing to expand exploration in the Utica Shale (see Shale Daily, Oct. 10, 2013). Additional equity was provided by First Reserve Corp. and McClendon's management team to secure 110,000 net acres in the southern portion of the play.

The exploration partnership was founded last spring shortly after McClendon retired from Chesapeake (see Shale Daily, April 17, 2013).

Company officials have provided few details about the exploration plans, but one rig was to be installed in the Utica in late 2013 with plans to add at least 12 rigs over the next few years. About 80% of the midstream is being handled by MarkWest Utica EMG, a joint venture with EMG and MarkWest Energy Partners LP. The remaining acreage was to be processed by Utica East Ohio Midstream LLC.

AENO General Manager John-Mark Beaver now is considering nonoperated producing or nonproducing leasehold/drilling opportunities in onshore basins, the partnership noted. The company also is in a hiring mode.