Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. will continue to push ahead in 2014 with plans to focus more sharply on its core assets in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of West Virginia and Ohio, with plans to spend more than half of its capital budget in Appalachia next year.

The company announced Thursday a 2014 capital expenditures budget of $400 million, of which $310 million will be dedicated to exploration and production, including $260 million for its drilling programs in the Utica and Marcellus. Continuing its efforts to divest noncore assets — which gained traction this year as the company neared the closing of $700 million in sales toward the end of the third quarter — Magnum said it will sell additional noncore assets for $200-$400 million in 2014 to help fund its efforts in the Utica and Marcellus.

Proceeds from those sales will also help its program in the Williston Basin in North Dakota, where it will invest $50 million as a non-operated partner to drill 15-20 wells, mostly in Divide County’s Ambrose Field.

“Our ability to grow both production and reserves at the highest internal rate of return within our existing asset base undoubtedly lies in our acreage position located in the Utica and Marcellus Shale resource plays,” CEO Gary Evans said. “Therefore, this region will be allocated the largest portion of our 2014 capital expenditure budget.”

During a 3Q2013 conference call with financial analysts, Evans said the company would be a “well-oiled machine” with respect to bringing wells online quickly in its core areas of operation (see Shale Daily, Nov. 11). Despite problems with its first Utica well, the company has been planning to speed up leasing activity and run more rigs in the play.

Analysts were encouraged by Magnum’s 2014 capital budget on Thursday because the company said it plans to spend less than was expected to meet its exit rate guidance of 35,000 boe/d next year. They also marveled at Magnum’s core position in the Utica Shale, in the southeast part of the state, where the company has drawn significant interest with a joint venture 10-well pad in Morgan County, OH, with Eclipse Resources LLC that’s targeting both the Marcellus and Utica to validate acreage (see Shale Daily, July 3).

The company’s drilling program in the Utica and Marcellus will be concentrated on the delineation and development of its combined 180,000 net acres there. Specifically, Magnum intends to further explore its acreage position in Monroe, Noble and Washington counties in Ohio, and Tyler and Richie counties in West Virginia. Magnum said it would also keep acquiring mineral leases in both plays. The company expects to drill 23-25 horizontal wells with between two and three rigs in Appalachia next year.

Another $90 million will be dedicated to Magnum subsidiary Eureka Hunter Pipeline for midstream activities.

“Due to our majority ownership position in our midstream subsidiary, Eureka Hunter, we anticipate additional benefit from the new production volumes that will be gathered on behalf of our company owned gas, as well as third party volumes gathered by this system in both West Virginia and Ohio,” Evans said.