Synergy Resources Corp. is adding 33,100 net acres in the heart of the natural gas-rich Wattenberg field of Colorado in separate transactions with Noble Energy Inc. worth $505 million.

In one deal, Synergy is acquiring 72,000 gross acres in Weld County near Greeley, which are “largely contiguous, allowing for longer lateral lengths per well and the efficient development of infrastructure.” More than 80% of the acquired lands are held by production from vertical wells and could be horizontally developed.

“This acquisition is transformational for Synergy and a significant step forward in the company’s evolution to become a leading operator in the Wattenberg field,” CEO Lynn Peterson said. Most of the Denver-based independent’s operations today are focused in Weld County, where it operated one rig during the first quarter.

Houston-based Noble long has been one of the largest operators in Colorado’s Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin, where the Wattenberg has been a gas producing machine. Noble’s DJ production in 4Q2015 contributed more than 25% of total worldwide volumes at 121,000 boe/d (see Shale Daily, Feb. 18).

Average daily production on the assets divested is 2,400 boe/d net to Noble and two-thirds of the acreage is operated. The acreage represents 8% of Noble’s DJ position and 2% of its output from the play. Several hundred vertical wells have been drilled on the assets by multiple operators, while Noble has drilled 14 horizontal wells there over the past four years.

The acreage included in the transaction remains dedicated to Noble’s midstream business for oil and water gathering, as well as freshwater services.

Synergy has identified more than 900 gross locations on the acquired lands, with 800-plus suitable for laterals of 7,500-10,000 feet, using an initial assumption of horizontal development with 20-24 wells per drilling unit.

The acquisition is expected to close on two separate dates, with the undeveloped lands and nonoperated production expected to close by the end of June, followed by the operated producing properties later in 2016.

In two separate transactions with private entities, Synergy also agreed to divest 3,700 net undeveloped acres and 107 vertical wells, primarily in Adams County, CO, for $27 million. The assets being sold were producing about 200 boe/d. The transaction is expected to close by the end of June.

Pro forma for the transactions, Synergy would have an interest in 47,200 net acres in the Wattenberg fairway, as well as 22,000 net acres of other Niobrara land.

“By consolidating our properties into a more focused footprint, we should be able to gain operating efficiencies,” Peterson said. “We have assembled an experienced Wattenberg technical team that can execute a capital efficient growth plan while maintaining a balance sheet with low leverage.”

Operational activity isn’t expected to increase this year with the increased portfolio. However, “we anticipate the development of the acquired properties to be a significant part of our expanded 2017 operation program, which is expected to incorporate up to three drilling rigs.”

Peterson said the Noble deal was a “unique opportunity to acquire a contiguous block of acreage in the heart of the Wattenberg field that may never present itself again.”

Once the transaction is completed, Noble’s DJ position would total 363,100 net acres, including 111,600 combined acres in Wells Ranch/East Pony and 31,800 acres remaining in the Greeley Crescent area.

“The Greeley Crescent sale signifies Noble Energy’s continued portfolio management efforts and accelerates the value of these assets to the company,” Noble CEO Dave Stover said. “This transaction also highlights the strong value of undeveloped acreage throughout the DJ Basin.Our DJ Basin development activities are currently focused on Wells Ranch and East Pony, where we have a deep inventory of long lateral drilling opportunities in an oily part of the basin. In addition, our existing infrastructure in these areas provides a competitive advantage.”

Combined with other asset sales, Noble to date this year has announced divestments that total more than $775 million.