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PDC Sells Marcellus JV Interest, Bolsters Utica Position

PDC Energy Inc. has agreed to sell its half-interest in a Marcellus Shale joint venture (JV) to privately owned Mountaineer Keystone Energy LLC for $250 million, leaving behind a dry gas program mostly neglected in favor of boosting its liquids production in other fields.

PDC entered the JV with equity-backer Lime Rock Partners LP in 2009 and lists 131,000 net Marcellus acres in southwest Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. According to its 2013 annual report, PDC drilled 14 wells across the property last year and said Wednesday the assets produced 24 MMcfe/d net in the first quarter.

Last December, PDC said it would suspend its 2014 Marcellus drilling program, citing depressed natural gas prices (see Shale DailyDec. 12, 2013). It had done the same in March 2012 before resuming activity in 2013 (see Shale DailyMarch 5, 2012). Most of its recent activities were focused in West Virginia’s Taylor, Harrison and Barbour counties, where more than half of its 600 undeveloped horizontal locations are located. 

In keeping with plans to boost its 2014 liquids mix to 60% of total production, PDC also said Wednesday it has added to its position in Ohio's Utica Shale by acquiring 13,000 net acres for $35 million near its liquid-rich windows in Washington and Morgan counties, increasing its position to 67,000 net acres. Last November, the company secured Morgan County’s first three horizontal drilling permits.         

"This divestiture represents a final step in our transition toward a high quality, liquid-rich asset base and positions us to fully focus our efforts on the horizontal development of our higher-return Wattenberg Field and Utica Shale assets," said CEO James Trimble.

"Our acquisition of additional acreage in the liquid-rich area of the Utica Shale demonstrates our strong commitment to the southern portion of the play. Proceeds from this sale, along with internally generated cash flow and cash on the books at the beginning of the year, are expected to fully fund our previously announced 2014 capital program." Most of its activity is in Colorado’s Niobrara and Codell formations.

Pittsburgh-based Mountaineer Keystone, which already has small acreage positions in Ohio and West Virginia, is to assume PDC's share of firm transportation obligations under the JV, as well its natural gas hedging positions through 2015.

The deal is expected to close in October. The assets are 99% gas-weighted and include an estimated 240 Bcf of proved reserves net to PDC, which after repaying JV debt and making other adjustments would receive $190 million in proceeds.

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