EnerVest Ltd. hasn’t nailed down buyers for some of its Utica Shale portfolio in Ohio, but there is plenty of interest in the big leasehold. Now it’s a matter of getting the right prices and the right terms, CEO John Walker said Tuesday.

Walker, who chairs EnerVest’s publicly traded exploration arm, EV Energy Partners LP (EVEP), updated an audience about the sale at the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s Oil and Gas Investment Symposium.

The original plan was for EnerVest, the second biggest leaseholder in the Ohio play after Chesapeake Energy Corp., to sell the portfolio in four packages by the end of last year (see Shale Daily,Sept. 18, 2012). However, Walker admitted first in December that the process was taking longer than expected, and in March he said it could take up to a year to complete (see Shale Daily, March 6).

The EnerVest management team has been working with what is rumored to be a well financed bidder to buy around 85% of the marketed land. However, with months gone by and no signed agreement, “we are not going to wait around for a conclusion to this deal,” said Walker. Now EnerVest has “reopened talks” on “smaller packages.”

EnerVest plans to sell about 335,000 net acres in Ohio, down from an original plan to sell more than 500,000 net acres. The original four lease packages, which are in 13 Ohio counties, have been split into 13 transactions, each comprising one county, that are available for separate or multiple bids. It’s possible that EnerVest could sweeten the pot and add more acreage to a package from land that it intended to keep.

The operator has set aside close to 231,000 total net acres in Ohio and Pennsylvania for future development.

It’s not the financial terms that EnerVest has found unacceptable, Walker suggested. Rather, the glitch is in acceptable operating agreements, Walker explained.

Enervest is only selling the drilling rights to about 70% of the acreage up for sale. It also partners with Chesapeake and Paris-based operator Total SA on 619,000 acres in 10 counties in eastern Ohio. That means that the buyer of EnerVest’s stake has to become a joint operator in a lot of the acreage that is bought.

Walker indicated that there’s also some strong interest in acquiring stakes in EnerVest’s Utica midstream operations.

EnerVest also holds a 21% stake in the Utica East Ohio Midstream LLC (UEO) operations, which are being built to process natural gas. In addition, it has a interest in the Cardinal Gas Services gathering pipeline network for natural gas liquids. UEO partners include M3 Ohio Gathering (Momentum), Access Midstream Partners GP and Williams (see Shale Daily, Dec. 13, 2012). The partners plan to invest $900 million or more over the next five years to develop an integrated midstream service complex in eastern Ohio.

The project includes the Kensington Plant in Columbiana County, a cryogenic processing facility with an initial capacity of 600 MMcf/d and an expected full capacity of 800 MMcf/d.