PDC Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: PDCE) sold its way out of a Marcellus Shale joint venture (JV) and bought into 13,000 net acres in the Utica, the final step in a transition toward liquid-rich assets, company officials said.

In the Marcellus, PDCE agreed to sell its 50% interest in PDC Mountaineer LLC to Mountaineer Keystone Energy LLC for about $250 million or $190 million after accounting for JV debt and adjustments, the company said July 30.

The final price is far more than the $120 million that Wells Fargo Securities had anticipated, said David Tameron, senior analyst for Wells Fargo, in a report.

The Marcellus properties, located in West Virginia, accounted for 240 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of proved reserves as of year-end 2013 and produced 24 million cubic feet equivalent per day (MMcfe/d) in the first quarter of 2014.

The “headline price is $10,400 per Mcfe/d or $1.04 per proved Mcf,” Tameron said.

James Trimble, PDCE CEO, said selling the Marcellus interest and buying in the Utica allows the company to “fully focus our efforts on the horizontal development of our higher-return Wattenberg Field and Utica Shale assets.”

Tudor Pickering Holt acted as adviser on the sale.

Utica buy

PDCE also announced July 30 it had accumulated 13,000 net acres in the liquid-rich Utica Shale window in southeast Ohio for $35 million. The sale is subject to confirmation of title.

Tameron said the $2,700 per net acre is reasonable given where prices have trended in the basin, “although higher priced transactions have typically been focused further north.”

The new acreage offsets PDCE’s existing holdings in Morgan and Washington counties, Ohio. With the acquisition, PDCE's acreage position in the Utica increases to 67,000 acres from 54,000.

The company anticipates total gross horizontal well inventory to increase to 350 locations.

Its acreage position in southern Utica is substantially contiguous in the wet-gas and condensate windows and provides for increased drilling, operational and midstream synergies.

The company is pursuing additional acreage acquisitions in the shale.