Noble Energy calls Niobrara 'top-tier oil play'

Noble Energy Inc. plans to invest $1.7 billion in the Denver-Julesburg basin, primarily in northern Colorado, during 2013, and the company estimates its net resources in Wattenberg and Niobrara at 2.1 billion boe.

That estimate includes oil and natural gas in the Greater Wattenberg along with oil in Northern Colorado.

Noble is emphasizing liquids development, and its DJ basin holdings are driving the company’s anticipated production growth.

“We have accelerated our development in the DJ basin, which will receive the greatest portion of our capital program,” Charles Davidson, Noble’s chief executive, told reporters during a news briefing following a presentation to analysts. “We really believe the Niobrara has evolved into a top-tier oil play.”

The DJ basin and Marcellus are two of the company’s five core operating areas. The others are deepwater Gulf of Mexico, Eastern Mediterranean, and West Africa.

Of a planned $3.9 billion budget for 2013, Noble plans to spend 60% of it to accelerate Niobrara oil and Marcellus wet gas production.

Noble plans to increase the number of wells drilled in the DJ basin, centered on Weld County, Colo., to 300/year during 2013 and 500/year by 2016. The company’s DJ basin investments are expected to total nearly $10 billion during 2013-17, Davidson said.

Drilling plans calls for an average of nine rigs running next year in the DJ basin, where Noble expects to boost its production to more than 100,000 boe/d by Dec. 31, 2013, up 25% from its 2012 DJ basin production.

The Houston independent has identified 9,500 prospects for horizontal drilling in Colorado. Noble said its Niobrara oil window is at depths of 5,000-8,200 ft. Noble’s holdings cover 410,000 net acres in the greater Wattenberg area and 230,000 net acres in northern Colorado.

The company’s other unconventional driver is Marcellus gas resources, where gas production is expected to reach 165 MMcfd of gas equivalent in 2013, he said, noting that would be an 80% hike from the company’s 2012 Marcellus production figures.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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