Marathon to spend $3.6B on shale plays in 2014

Houston — Marathon Oil said it plans to pour $3.6 billion into boosting its production of oil and gas from North America in 2014, outlining a plan increasingly focused on lucrative production in the United States.

The company’s capital expenditure budget for 2014 will be $5.9 billion, with 60 percent allocated to North American plays, Marathon Oil said Wednesday.

Of that total, $2.3 billion is allocated to the Eagle Ford Shale play in south Texas, where the company plans to drill more than 250 wells in 2014. Marathon will spend $1 billion in the Bakken Shale region of North Dakota and $236 million in Oklahoma’s Woodford play.

Marathon has 28 rigs currently active in its key U.S. plays and it plans to boost its rig activity 20 percent in the Bakken and Eagle Ford regions, while doubling its rig activity in the Oklahoma Woodford region.

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At the same time, Marathon Oil plans to sell off North Sea assets and add $2.5 billion to its budget for buying back its shares. The company’s goal is to narrow its focus on its “highest-value domestic resource plays,” CEO Lee Tillman said in a statement.

The company also said it expects production to average 405,000 to 430,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2014, excluding production from Alaska and Libya.

It expects its overall production to increase 4 percent next year, after growing about 10 percent in 2013.

“When you look at the three priorities for our 2014 business plan — accelerating our rig activity in three of the highest-value domestic resource plays, marketing our North Sea assets and increasing our share repurchase authorization — we believe they definitively reinforce our stated strategy of creating long-term shareholder value and a commitment to rigorous portfolio management integrated with robust capital allocation,” Tillman said in a statement.

Marathon Oil also plans to spend $529 million on exploration next year, including seismic surveys and two or three net wells across its interests in the Gulf of Mexico, Ethiopia, Kenya, Gabon and Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

The company also will spend $294 million on its oil sands mining segment. Marathon Oil holds a 20 percent stake in the Athabasca oil sands project in Alberta, Canada. Shell is the lead investor in the project with a 60 percent stake and Chevron holds the remaining 20 percent share.