Chesapeake Energy selling Barnett Shale acreage

HOUSTON, July 23 Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:52am IST

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HOUSTON, July 23 (Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp, a U.S. oil and gas company facing funding shortfalls this year and next, is selling 3,300 acres (1,335 hectares) in the Barnett Shale in north Texas as part of its effort to limit exposure to low-priced natural gas.

Chesapeake, under pressure from big shareholders to cut costs due to its heavy spending, depressed gas prices and a big debt load, has already laid off 8 percent of its workforce in the Barnett Shale. The company also previously said it would entertain offers for its Fort Worth office tower.

The company's real estate arm, Chesapeake Land Development, aims to raise nearly $100 million from the sales of its Barnett Shale land parcels, according to the unit's website.

A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment.

The sales mark a retreat for the company that helped to pioneer the concept of urban drilling.

When natural gas traded at around $13 per million British thermal units in 2008, Chesapeake drilled wells at a Fort Worth country club, in north Texas neighborhoods and even at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

This year, natural gas prices fell to their lowest level in a decade, so the company said it was devoting 85 percent of its budget toward drilling for oil.

To help fill a funding gap of around $17 billion for this year and next, Chesapeake has said it would sell up to $14 billion in assets this year. So far, the company has announced $6.6 billion in sales.

Shares of Chesapeake rose 1.3 percent to $17.43 in afternoon New York Stock Exchange trading.

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