Citing drilling and acquisitions it made last year in the Wattenberg field north of Denver, PDC Energy Inc. on Wednesday reported a 19% jump in production in the first quarter, compared with the same period last year, and record output of more than 10,000 b/d of liquids.

Crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGL) volumes set a company record in 1Q2013, said CEO James Trimble. The company reported a 1Q2013 loss of $39 million (minus $1.30/share), compared to profits of $16 million (66 cents/share) for the same period in 2012.

Production from continuing operations in the first quarter was 18,500 boe/d, compared to 15,593 boe/d in 1Q2012.

“The increase in production was primarily due to continued successful horizontal drilling and a 2012 asset acquisition in the Wattenberg, along with a small contribution from initial production in the Utica Shale play in Ohio for a portion of the first quarter,” Trimble said.

For PDC, liquids now represent 54% of overall production, driven mostly by a 16% year-over-year increase in the Wattenberg [see Shale Daily, May 15, 2012], coupled with the company’s planned divestiture of its dry gas assets in Colorado. As recently as the fourth quarter, liquids constituted only 36% of PDC’s production mix.

The financial impact of the higher liquids mix primarily is in the area of raising PDC’s average sales margin/boe from around $16 to $20, Trimble said.

“We’re very pleased with our continued success in the horizontal drilling in the Niobrara and Codell formations, and we expect to start our waste management pad this month with the arrival of our third horizontal drilling rig in the Wattenberg field,” said Trimble. A fourth rig is expected to be added in Wattenberg later in the year.

Elsewhere, PDC will have one rig each operating in the Utica and Marcellus Shales in Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively, this year.