Calgary operator Encana Corp. on Wednesday catapulted more natural gas-heavy assets from its portfolio in an agreement to sell most of its Clearwater coalbed methane (CBM) properties in south-central Alberta to Ember Resources Inc. for C$605 million.

The sale includes about 1.2 million net acres of land and more than 6,800 producing wells that averaged 180 MMcfe/d of natural gas in the second quarter. It’s the latest major deal for Encana, which has been shifting its strategy from an onshore gas heavyweight, which it remains, to a more liquids-driven operator.

“This divestiture continues to advance our strategy,” said CEO Doug Suttles. “We are unlocking additional value from noncore dry gas assets as we focus on liquids-rich growth areas. Our growth portfolio now includes the top two resource plays in Canada, the Montney and the Duvernay, and the top two resource plays in the United States, the Eagle Ford and, by year-end, the Permian Basin.

“Through this transaction, Ember is acquiring a high-quality asset along with a tremendously talented team.” Encana still would have about 1.1 million net acres in Clearwater, including around 480,000 net acres along the eastern edge of the Horseshoe Canyon Fairway.

Ember CEO Doug Dafoe said the acquisition would establish his company as the leading producer of CBM in Canada.

“This is an exciting time for our company and we look forward to working with the talented team that has made Encana successful in this area for so many years,” Dafoe said.

Ember, together with its shareholder Brookfield Capital Partners, through several recent acquisitions has consolidated a significant land and production base in the Horseshoe Canyon CBM fairway in Alberta. With the Encana acquisition, it would own interests in 2.2 million net acres, with combined gross production of 290 MMcfe/d.

The sale is expected to be completed in early 2015.

Encana made the biggest global energy deal of the third quarter when it agreed to pay a total of $7.1 billion to acquire Athlon Energy Inc., giving it entry into the Permian Basin (see Shale Daily, Oct. 6; Sept. 29). With the Athlon transaction, Encana expects to achieve its initial 2017 target to hit 75% of operating cash flow from liquids production in 2015.

Encana plans to focus on the Permian and six other liquids-prone onshore formations: Canada’s Montney and Duvernay formations; the Denver-Julesburg and San Juan basins; and the Eagle Ford and Tuscaloosa Marine shales. It also is keeping a boatload of gassy options in its portfolio, and it remains Canada’s top gas producer.