Norway’s Statoil ASA on Wednesday said it has snapped up another 70,000 net acres in liquids-rich areas of the Marcellus Shale for $590 million in cash. The portfolio additions, which give the producer full or joint partnership in close to 750,000 net acres in the play, are spread across West Virginia and Ohio.

Statoil plans to operate the leaseholds, which it acquired from Grenadier Energy Partners LLC, PetroEdge Resources II LLC and Protege Energy II LLC. A gathering system is included in the purchase, which was completed Tuesday. Half of the assets are held by production and only a “few” of the leases are expiring soon.

“The U.S. unconventional plays hold a substantial resource base and represent an increasingly important part of future energy supplies,” said Torstein Hole, U.S. onshore senior vice president. “Statoil is further strengthening its U.S. onshore portfolio by acquiring additional acreage in the valuable liquid-rich parts of the Marcellus Shale…”

The market for wet gas is “substantially better paying than the current market for dry gas in the U.S. At this early stage of development, the risked resource base is estimated at 300-500 million boe. Current equity production is about 5,000 boe/d.”

Over a period of time the sellers plan to provide transition operating services.

The property being acquired adds “portfolio depth” because it not only diversifies Statoil’s Marcellus position, the global producer plans to take a hands-on approach operationally to manage subsurface and projects, apply technology and optimize the value chain. In October CFO Torgrim Reitan said Statoil had begun to deliver U.S. gas produced in the Marcellus to Canada to secure better prices (see Shale Daily, Nov. 1).

Statoil, which also has a substantial Gulf of Mexico portfolio and interests in liquefied natural gas, entered the Marcellus in 2008 through a partnership with Chesapeake Energy Corp. that targets more than 680,000 net acres. In 3Q3012 the joint venture was producing 63,000 boe/d.

Over the past four years Statoil has pursued a “targeted and stepwise growth strategy” to expand its U.S. onshore holdings and develop operational and organizational capacity.

In 2010 Statoil partnered with Talisman Energy Inc. to buy a leasehold in the Eagle Ford Shale (see Shale Daily, Oct. 12, 2010). Statoil in 2013 is to begin operating 50% of the Eagle Ford portfolio. One year after entering the Eagle Ford, Statoil gained a toehold in the Williston Basin with its acquisition of Brigham Exploration Co., giving it ownership and operatorship for leases in the Bakken and Three Forks formations in North Dakota and Montana (see Shale Daily, Oct. 18, 2011).

“Statoil was an early entrant into shale and has over time built a diversified portfolio in some of the most attractive oil, gas and liquid-rich areas,” said Hole. “We are already operator in the Bakken, we are on schedule to become operator in Eagle Ford next year…With this transaction Statoil will become operator also in Marcellus. We will then be operator in all of our significant U.S. shale plays.”