WPX Energy Inc. announced a net loss of $64 million for 3Q2012 on Thursday, but it also reported significant growth in oil production in the Bakken Shale and tripled natural gas production in the Marcellus.

Tulsa-based WPX said the loss for the third quarter was primarily driven by low commodity prices for natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL), compared to 3Q2011. Revenues, not including gas management activities, declined 24% between the two quarters because of lower net realized average prices for natural gas and NGL production.

WPX third quarter results were also hurt by about $22 million in net losses on derivatives not designated as hedges. During 3Q2011, net gains totaled $12 million. The 3Q2012 results translated to a loss of 32 cents/hare, compared to a gain of 7 cents/share in 3Q2011, when the company posted net income of $14 million.

The company also reported adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, depletion, amortization and exploration expenses (EBITDAX) of $230 million for 3Q2012, compared with $337 million for the prior third quarter.

“Despite a 10-year low for natural gas prices and the fall-off in NGL prices that we saw this year, we have a resilient portfolio and we still expect to achieve more than $1 billion dollars of adjusted EBITDAX with the recent strengthening in natural gas prices,” said CEO Ralph Hill.

“Along those lines, we are encouraged by the recent rebound in natural gas prices. At the appropriate time, we can be among the first and fastest to grow gas volumes again given our low-cost, competitive advantage in the Piceance [Basin].”

Hill added that WPX was levered toward a gas price recovery, especially in the Piceance and in Susquehanna County, PA, in the Marcellus. “In the Piceance alone, we have more than 10,000 remaining gross 3P [proved probable possible] locations,” he said.

In the Bakken, oil production averaged 9,600 b/d during 3Q2012, a 66% increase over the 5,800 b/d produced there during 3Q2011. The increase helped offset a small decrease in the Piceance Basin, where average oil production fell 5%, from 2,100 b/d to 2,000 b/d. Total oil production averaged 17,900 b/d in the near quarter, a 30% increase from 13,800 b/d in 3Q2011. Year-to-date (YTD) oil production has averaged 17,500 b/d.

“Our quarterly growth in the Bakken was masked by completions that were delayed from the second quarter to the third, but our third quarter average production of 9,600 b/d has already increased 9% in October to 10,500, and we expect to reach our planned December monthly exit rate,” Hill said.

“As a clear example of our growing efficiencies in the Bakken, we expect to complete 14 wells in the fourth quarter, compared to 22 wells during the first nine months of the year. The commencement of pad drilling is on schedule, and we expect those efficiencies will drive down costs in 2013.”

WPX also enjoyed growth in the Marcellus Shale, where natural gas production averaged 65 MMcf/d, a 333% increase from 3Q2011, when 15 MMcf/d was produced in the play. But WPX’s stake in the Marcellus is dwarfed by the company’s position in the Piceance, Powder River and San Juan basins, and average daily production fell in all three during the third quarter. The decreases in production were 7% in the Piceance (from 704 to 652 MMcf/d), 13% in the Powder River (233 to 203 MMcf/d) and 16% in the San Juan (153 to 128 MMcf/d).

“The pullback in our third-quarter natural gas production is a direct result of our capital discipline and the corresponding change in our rig count this year,” Hill said. “As we’ve demonstrated before, we can redeploy capital and ramp up volumes quickly as higher returns materialize.”

Total production averaged 1,359 MMcfe/d during 3Q2012, a 2% decrease from 3Q2011, when it was 1,388 MMcfe/d. YTD total production has averaged 1,403 MMcfe/d.

“Overall, lower commodity prices in 2012 have been a challenge, but we’ve maintained our strong and stable financial condition; we’re bullish on our large resource base, and we’re on target to meet our 2012 production goal of 1,380 MMcfe/d,” Hill said. WPX said that goal consists of 1.1 Bcf/d of natural gas, 18,100 b/d of oil and 29,400 b/d of NGLs.

WPX said it completed 204 gross (185 net) wells in the Piceance during the first three quarters of 2012, and plans to continue operating five rigs there for the rest of the year. The company said it was nearing total depth on its first horizontal well in the Niobrara formation to explore the Piceance’s deeper gas potential.

The company said it completed 22 gross (18 net) wells in the Bakken and 28 gross (23 net) wells in the Marcellus during the first three quarters of 2012. WPX said it expects to complete another 14 gross (10 net) wells in the Bakken during 4Q2012. Meanwhile currently has two fit-for-purpose rigs in Susquehanna County.

In February WPX said it was cutting its capital expenditure program for 2012 because of persistently low natural gas prices (see Shale Daily, Feb. 8). The company also said it would cut up to three drilling rigs as it trains its focus on the production of oil in the Bakken and NGLs in the Piceance.

WPX was spun off from Williams at the end of 2011 to become an independent explorer. The company, now among the top 10 natural gas producers in the United States, holds 5.2 Tcfe in natural gas, oil and NGL reserves.