Marathon increasing its domestic shale presence

HOUSTON — Marathon Oil is continuing to ramp up its presence in domestic shale plays, saying that the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Oklahoma Woodford shales provide some of the world’s best investment opportunities.

The Houston-based oil and gas exploration and production company has ramped up to 28 rigs in the three areas, the company announced Monday during an analysts’ conference in New Orleans.

“We continue to have high confidence in our ability to deliver on our North America long-term production growth targets,” said Marathon Oil CEO Lee Tillman in a written statement.

Tillman said  that the company will grow shale production both by developing new resources and increasing output from existing resources. Marathon plans to improve efficiency by drilling wells more closely together through techniques such as pad drilling, and reducing the time between acquiring a resource and drilling.

These shale plays have been a bonanza for Marathon, which showed a 16 percent increase in its fourth quarter profit last year due to rising oil production in the Eagle Ford Shale.

Marathon is looking at possible co-development opportunities in the Eagle Ford’s Austin Chalk and the Bakken’s deeper Three Forks area, Tillman said. The company is also assessing the Southern Mississippi Trend and Granite Wash for future resource development.

In an earlier interview with FuelFix, Tillman said the company intends to continue pursuing unconventional plays, as well, saying that their potential and the lower capital commitment required balances out the company’s pricier international offshore projects.

To focus on the U.S. and other key assets, Marathon is preparing to sell its United Kingdom and Norway North Sea business and expects to receive bids in the second quarter.

Marathon has also completed the second phase of a $1 billion share repurchase that was funded by an earlier sale of offshore resources in Angola. It also plans to conduct an additional $500 million share repurchase.