Comstock Resources Inc. announced Thursday that it plans to enter the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS), after signing agreements with unidentified sellers to acquire 55,000 gross (53,000 net) leased acres in the play for $54.5 million.

The Frisco, TX-based company said it believes the acreage being acquired — in East Feliciana and St. Helena parishes in Louisiana, and Amite and Wilkinson counties in Mississippi — is prospective for oil, based on its proximity to successful wells that have been drilled by its competitors in the play.

Comstock said it is simultaneously “pursuing other lease acquisition opportunities in this and another play prospective for oil development.” The company expects the deal, which is subject to closing conditions and adjustments, to close during 4Q2013.

Earlier this month, CEO Jay Allison said Comstock planned to invest $120 million in two emerging oil plays (see Shale Daily, Nov. 8). Although he declined to say exactly where the company was looking, he said it would be in the area of its current operations — Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas — and would be in a play that “has the potential to be another Eagle Ford [Shale].”

“These acreage acquisitions will allow Comstock to expand its oil drilling program beyond its current successful program in South Texas’s prolific Eagle Ford shale play” Allison said Thursday. “[Our] 2014 drilling program will still be primarily focused on developing our Eagle Ford Shale properties, as we await a more favorable natural gas price environment to resume drilling in our Haynesville Shale natural gas properties.

“By adding new acreage in plays prospective for oil, we can ensure that we have an adequate inventory of future drilling locations which will allow us to continue to grow our oil production and oil reserves base in future years.”

Comstock sold a package of assets in the Permian Basin to Rosetta Resources Inc. in March for $768 million (see Shale Daily, July 31; March 18).

At 53,000 net acres, Comstock will be the 10th-largest leaseholder in the TMS, just behind Halcon Resources Corp. but ahead of Sanchez Energy Corp., which have 75,000 and 40,000 net acres, respectively (see Shale Daily, Nov. 13). The top five leaseholders in the TMS are Goodrich Petroleum Corp. (320,000 net acres), Indigo II Minerals LLC (308,000), Encana Corp. (302,000), Devon Energy Corp. (199,000) and EOG Resources Inc. (150,000).