Newfield Exploration Co. is “right where we want to be toward execution of our 2013-2015 plan,” CEO Lee Boothby said Wednesday during an earnings conference call in which management talked of a “surge” in Eagle Ford Shale production and the rising prominence of the Cana-Woodford Shale in the company’s liquids-focused portfolio.

Newfield is about to open a data room for the previously announced sale of its international assets in Malaysia and China (see Shale Daily, Feb. 21) and going forward will focus on four key plays: the Cana-Woodford, the Uinta Basin, the Eagle Ford and the Williston Basin.

“Our production in the first quarter of 2013 exceeded our beginning of the year expectations and we are on target to deliver on our expected 39% growth in domestic liquids volumes for the year (adjusted for asset sales in 2012),” said Boothby. “We kicked off the year with better-than-expected first quarter volumes in our Cana Woodford, Williston and Uinta Basin operating regions and posted quarter-over-quarter production growth (adjusted for asset sales) in our domestic operating regions. Our focus this year is on execution. We are seeing greater drilling efficiencies, the benefit of optimized completions and improved returns across the company.”

The latest talk from Newfield cheered investors. Newfield shares closed up 7.31% at $21.29 after heavy trading Wednesday. However, the stock is still dwelling near the bottom of its 52-week range of $19.57-36.66.

Net production in the first quarter was 11.7 million boe: 47% oil, 9% natural gas liquids (NGL) and 44% natural gas. Domestic liquids production increased 9% over the fourth quarter of 2012 and nearly 30% over the prior year’s first quarter when adjusted for asset sales, the company said. Domestic liquids production is expected to increase 12% quarter-over-quarter during the second quarter. Newfield said 2013 total company production is forecast to range at about 44-47 million boe.

The company has seven operated rigs running in the Cana-Woodford in the Anadarko Basin. First quarter net production there was 14,400 boe/d, about 4,300 b/d higher than the 2012 average. “We continue to see excellent well performance,” said COO Gary Packer. The company completed six new wells during the first quarter, and they are performing ahead of Newfield type curves, he said.

“Our net Cana production should exit 2013 at about 26,000 boe/d, up from about 10,000 b/d in the fourth quarter of last year. At that level, it will become our largest producing asset. That’s impressive considering it has taken less than three years to move this play from the initial concept phase.”

The company drilled six additional super extended lateral (SXL) wells, with laterals of about 7,500 feet, in the Eagle Ford Shale with well costs lowered by $400,000 over 2012 average completed well costs. Eagle Ford wells are in various stages of completion with a 45% increase in quarter-over-quarter production expected in the second quarter.

In the Eagle Ford, the company is running two operated rigs and drilling SXL wells from common pad locations. “We are right on target with our Eagle Ford plan and expect to drill about 35 operated wells in the play in 2013,” said Packer. The latest wells “are at various stages of completion today with one of the pads at early flowback…Our production ramp in the Eagle Ford will be back end-weighted due to the pad drilling and the timing of our simultaneous completions.

“Our Eagle Ford net production averaged about 4,800 boe/d in the first quarter with no new pads coming online. We are looking for a surge of oil production from new pads in the second and third quarters and expect to exit 2013 at about 14,000 boe/d. We expect that our Eagle Ford production will grow 75% year over year in 2013 and an additional 50% in 2014.

“Our Eagle Ford returns today are among the highest in the company. We estimate that our SXL wells have gross EURs [estimated ultimate recoveries] in excess of 550,000 boe with a production stream that’s largely comprised of black oil.”

During the first quarter, record wells were completed in the Williston Basin with average gross 24-hour initial production (IP) rates of more than 3,100 boe/d in the Bakken formation. Completions in the Three Forks formation yielded average gross 24-hour IP rates of about 2,400 boe/d. Newfield raised its 2013 year-over-year production growth estimate to 25% compared to its original estimate of 15%.

Uinta Basin production increased 10% over the fourth quarter of 2012. Record drilling times of four days were achieved in the Greater Monument Butte Unit and recent Uteland Butte completions were consistent with earlier results. Refining capacity expansions are under way in the Salt Lake City area and additional markets outside of Salt Lake City are being tested for marketing future oil production from the Uinta.

For the first quarter Newfield posted a net loss of $8 million (minus 6 cents/share), which includes a net unrealized loss on commodity derivatives of $111 million ($69 million after-tax, 51 cents/share). Excluding this item, net income for the first quarter would have been $61 million (45 cents/share). For the first quarter of 2012 net income was $116 million (86 cents/share).

Wells Fargo Securities pegs Newfield net asset value (NAV) at $36.75/share. “We apply a substantial discount to our NAV for uncertainty we see in ramping [up] in emerging plays,” the firm said in a note Wednesday.