A Texas-based company and its partners are selling off a portion of its Utica shale acreage in east-central Ohio.
The EnerVest Ltd. companies announced on Friday that they selling 22,535 acres in Guernsey, Harrison and Noble counties to an undisclosed buyer for $284.3 million.
The sale is expected to close by the end of the third quarter 2013.
"This is a good first step in our revised Utica acreage sale process," said chairman John B. Walker in a statement. "The value of this sale averages $12,900 per acre. We look forward to announcing additional deals as they occur.
The sale was approved by EV Energy Partners, the publicly traded arm of EnerVest, along with certain institutional partnerships managed by EnerVest Ltd.
EnerVest is one of Ohio’s largest oil and gas companies. with 8,700 vertical wells in Ohio. It was the largest producer from traditional gas and oil wells in Ohio and produced 25 percent of Ohio’s natural gas prior to the Utica shale boom.
The prices paid range from $11,000 to $15,000 an acre. Most was sold for $13,000 an acre, Walker said.
Of the total acreage, EV Energy Partners sold 4,345 acres and will net about $56 million, the companies said.
It will retain its overriding royalty interest on those acres.
EV Energy Partners has been trying to sell the Utica holdings since late last year. It announced plans last fall to sell up to 539,000 acres in Ohio. A proposed deal for 104,000 acres was canceled last April.
EV Energy Partners has said it decided to sell off the leased land rather than invest the money to drill natural gas-oil wells itself. Each well can cost $6 million to $10 million. The firm is favored by institutional investors.
Walker’s company holds some of the most attractive Utica lands that are already producing natural gas, oil and ethane, butane and propane.
EnerVest is a partner with Chesapeake Energy Corp. and French energy company Total SA in drilling on 619,000 acres in 10 counties in eastern Ohio. It is a key player in investing in pipelines and gas-processing facilities in eastern Ohio.
EV Energy Partners has said it intends to keep an additional 73,500 acres in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, at least for now. The acreage being retained totals 56,600 acres in Ohio and 16,900 acres in Pennsylvania.
The company said it intends to keep its shallow vertical-only wells in Ohio’s Clinton sandstone and the deeper Knox wells.
Walker also announced in Friday’s teleconference that his companies and a partner are developing a new plan to drill 20 new exploratory oil wells in three areas of Stark and Tuscarawas counties.
That drilling could begin late this year, officials said.
The company is seeking to locate and develop what’s called the volatile Utica oil window that drillers so far have largely been unable to tap.
The project’s partner was identified by Walker only as a privately held energy company with acreage near EnerVest’s holdings.
The two companies are negotiating with service companies and intend to work with oil shale experts to form two small joint ventures to de-risk the oil window, he said.
The areas to be drilled were not identified by the companies.
EV Energy Partners also announced the recently opened Utica East Ohio is processing natural gas at about 40 percent of its capacity and that is expected to grow as more Ohio wells come online.
The complex includes a gas-processing plant at Kensington in Columbiana County and a liquids fractionation plant near Scio in Harrison County. It began operations on July 28.
EV Energy Partners owns 21 percent of Utica East Ohio.
For the quarter that ended June 30, EV Energy reported net income of $32.9 million, or 74 cents per share, compared with $15 million, or 35 cents per share, in 2012.
Profits came on revenue of $81.6 million, up from $63.6 million last year.
For the first half, EV Energy is carrying a $13.7 million loss, compared with 2012 profits of $43.5 million. Revenue is $153 million, compared with $139.6 million a year ago.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.