Marathon Oil Corp. production targets are being raised sharply on growth in the Eagle Ford and Bakken shales, CEO Clarence Cazalot said last week. Targeted asset sales also continue, evidenced by the recent sale of a natural gas processor in Louisiana, he told analysts during a 4Q2012 conference call.

The Eagle Ford is on track to go from representing 18% of U.S. production in 2012 to 40% this year, Cazalot said.

“There was more of a doubling of the U.S. production from 3Q2011 to 4Q2012,” he said. Based on early indicators this year, Marathon is increasing its production target in the Eagle Ford to 85,000 boe/d, while Bakken output is set to increase to 35,000 boe/d. The two onshore U.S. shale plays are “the highest-value resource plays” in the world.

In concentrating more on the Eagle Ford and Bakken, as well as Oklahoma resource basins, Marathon increasingly will move toward more use of multi-well pads, particularly in the Eagle Ford, as it cuts rig counts but keeps production levels. The company is looking at drilling more than 290 new wells in the Eagle Ford in 2013, while adding 65-75 new wells in the Bakken, Cazalot said.

Marathon had 11 unconventional oil and gas drilling rigs in the Eagle Ford at the beginning of February, four fewer than the previous week and seven fewer than a month ago, according to SmithBits data and NGI’s Shale Daily calculations. The company also had four rigs in the Bakken/Sanish/Three Forks and two more in the Cana-Woodford of Oklahoma.

Discussions on the sale of a portion of the company’s Canadian assets are ongoing, but there is nothing material to report at this point, and there may not be longer term, said Cazalot. The company, which now is a pure independent after spinning off its refinery operations, reported lower earnings in 4Q2012 from three months earlier.

Net income in 4Q2012 totaled $322 million, versus $450 million in 3Q2012. Exploration and production available for sale has grown by 32% since 2010, the company noted.

Separately, Korea’s Samchully Asset Management Co. Ltd. bought Marathon’s 34% interest in the Neptune Gas Processing Plant in St. Mary Parish, LA, for $170 million cash deal. The purchase represents the Korean firm’s first direct investment in U.S. midstream assets. Neptune is a cryogenic plant with 650 MMcf/d of capacity. Enterprise Gas Processing LLC is majority owner/operator.

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