Marubeni to buy 35% stake in Eagle Ford shale

Marubeni Corp. (8002), Japan’s biggest grain trading company, agreed to buy a 35 percent stake in shale oil and gas acreage in the U.S. from Hunt Oil Co. in a $1.3 billion deal that includes future drilling costs.

The Tokyo-based company will acquire 52,000 net acres in the Eagle Ford area in Texas, Marubeni said in a statement on its website today. The company and Hunt plan to drill “several hundred” wells in the area over the next five to 10 years, according to the statement.

Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Reliance Industries Ltd. have gained access to U.S. shale assets, which the Energy Information Administration estimates can more than double the world’s gas reserves. Japan’s trading companies are boosting investments in new types of oil and gas assets to help reduce the country’s reliance on Middle Eastern supplies.

Marubeni and Dallas-based Hunt agreed they would acquire more shale acreage in the Eagle Ford area, according to the statement.

Marubeni fell 1 percent to 474 yen in Tokyo compared with a 1.2 percent decline in the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average. The stock dropped 18 percent last year.

Japan, which buys almost all its energy needs from overseas, boosted imports of liquefied natural gas after the March earthquake and tsunami knocked out nuclear reactors at Fukushima.

Marubeni is involved in oil and gas projects in the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, India and Qatar, according to the statement. Itochu Corp., Japan’s third-largest trading company, said in October 2010 it would invest $390 million to buy a 25 percent stake in about 88,000 acres of the Niobrara oil shale reserve in southeastern Wyoming from Fidelity Exploration & Production Co.

The U.S. overtook Russia in 2010 as the world’s largest gas producer as output from shale rose. Gas trapped in shale formations will provide 24 percent of all U.S. natural gas consumption in 2035, according to the Department of Energy.