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Marathon to expand rig work substantially

Company says it will expand its rig count by 50 percent in the fourth quarter.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Marathon to expand rig work substantially
Marathon Oil Corp. said to expect more rigs added to its portfolio in the fourth quarter. File Photo by Lilac Mountain/Shutterstock

HOUSTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Despite posting a loss for the third quarter, Marathon Oil said it planned to expand exploration and production work while keeping spending in check.

Marathon reported a net loss for the third quarter at $192 million, an improvement over the same period last year. Exploration expenses, meanwhile, declined significantly to $83 million and overall expenses dropped 40 percent to $1.43 billion.

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President and CEO Lee Tillman said early this year, as oil prices drifted toward historic lows, that his company would live within its means in an effort to navigate the weak market for crude oil. By June, the company had spent $888 million to acquire PayRock Energy Holdings, which held about 61,000 acres of land in the Anadarko shale reserve area in Oklahoma. Tillman at the time said the acquisition "will meaningfully expand the quality and scale" of the company's holdings in shale basins in the Lower 48.

Tillman said Marathon was now coming out of the third quarter in a strong position.

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"We're increasing our rig count by 50 percent in the fourth quarter while remaining within our existing $1.3 billion capital program," he said in a statement.

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Companies had trimmed their spending plans as oil prices declined through early 2016. That was reflected in rig counts, which serve as a barometer of the confidence of those working in the oil and gas industry.

Schlumberger, which provides services for the exploration and production side of the industry, reported revenue for the three months ending June 30 at $7.1 billion, a 10 percent increase from the previous period, but 20 percent below the same point from 2015.

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Marathon said its third quarter production was higher than expected. Strong results were recorded across its shale holdings, from the Bakken oil reservoir in North Dakota to the Eagle Ford basin in Texas.

"Production costs reduced sequentially more than 10 percent for North America exploration and production," the company's statement read.

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