Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. unit Bakken Hunter LLC has agreed to acquire Williston Basin properties from an affiliate of Baytex Energy Corp. for $311 million in cash. The company also said Wednesday it is trimming spending in Appalachia because of low natural gas prices.

“This strategic bolt-on acquisition in North Dakota increases our technically focused acreage position to a 125,000 net mineral acreage block located in the Williston Basin,” said Glenn Dawson, president of the company’s Williston Hunter Inc. unit. “We will be transitioning from a previously minor working interest position into a significant growth platform targeting the prolific Sanish-Three Forks reservoir and emerging middle Bakken trends in this region. Increased capital allocation combined with advancing drilling and completion technology will propel oil production growth for the remainder of 2012 and many years to come for our division.”

Magnum Hunter currently owns a nonoperated 10% working interest in the properties to be acquired, and post-closing it would own up to a 47.5% nonoperated working interest. Samson Resources Co. is the operator and has an option to participate in the acquisition. The transaction is expected to close by May 22 with an effective date of March 1, 2012.

Assuming Samson does not participate, Magnum Hunter would acquire 50,414 net mineral acres primarily in Divide County, ND, which would expand its Williston Basin position to more than 125,000 net acres. Total proved reserves attributable to the properties being acquired are estimated at 8.6 million boe and are 93% oil. Current net production capacity is 1,295 b/d, which includes an estimated 350 b/d that is behind-pipe or waiting to be completed from wells recently drilled.

Drilling has dipped slightly in the Bakken/Sanish/Three Forks, according to NGI’s Shale Daily Unconventional Rig Count. As of last Friday there were 222 rigs running in the play, down three from the previous week but up 28% from the year-ago period when 174 rigs were active.

Magnum Hunter said it anticipates raising its upstream capital budget program from $150 million to about $225 million, with spending increased by $50 million in the Williston Basin region alone. Additionally, because of recent success achieved in the Eagle Ford region of South Texas, an additional $50 million is to be allocated to this division. These increases in spending are to be offset somewhat by a decrease of $25 million in capital expenditures for the Appalachia region because of lower natural gas prices, as well as a delay in completion of planned third-party gas processing facilities until later this year, the company noted.

The company said it has commitments from Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Credit Suisse AG, BMO Capital Markets Corp, UBS Securities LLC and Capital One National Association for a new $450 million senior loan facility to fund the acquisition, to pay off an existing $100 million term loan facility and to fund anticipated increased capital expenditures.