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Advantages surface for North Dakota oil acreage

Abraxas Petroleum takes on more Bakken acreage at 'reasonable cost.'

By Daniel J. Graeber

SAN ANTONIO, May 1 (UPI) -- Junior energy company Abraxas Petroleum said that, while the market climate was difficult, it can take on additional shale interests at "reasonable cost."

Abraxas said it took on an additional 210 net acres in the Bakken shale reserve in North Dakota, giving it a majority interest in one of the best oil deposits in the country. The company said it now plans to go before state regulators to petition to serve as an operator in acreage where it holds the controlling interest.

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Crude oil prices means less revenue and spending for most energy companies. Abraxas President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Watson said the first half of the year was "certainly disappointing," but the market is expected to improve during the second half of 2015.

"The acquisition of additional Bakken interests directly plays into our strategy of acquiring interests at a reasonable cost that will provide future development in our core areas," he said in a statement Thursday.

The company said it expects the cost per well to be about half as much as originally expected. It offered no financial terms of the new Bakken acquisition.

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Exploration and production activity in the Bakken shale has increased in recent weeks, with 86 rigs in active service as of Friday. While down about 59 percent from the 2012 peak, the rig count is up two since the beginning of the week.

More than 90 percent of the state's oil production comes from Bakken shale. State data show oil production for February, the last full month for which data are available, was around 1.17 million barrels per day.

The company said first quarter oil production was around 4,400 barrels per day. For full-year 2015, Abraxas expects to average 4,800 bpd on the high end.

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