Majors Adding Acreage in the Marcellus Shale

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Whether or not last week's historic slide in global crude prices has slowed -- which appeared to be the case on Monday -- don't look for the ever-active Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) to curtail its geographic spread and frenetic operational pace.

Last week, the second-largest of the U.S.-based integrated oil and gas companies -- behind only ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) -- continued to expand its presence in the Pennsylvania portion of the Marcellus shale, which spreads across much of the northeastern U.S. With the acquisition of 228,000 acres from Dallas-based Chief Oil & Gas and Tug Hill Inc., a Fort Worth investment firm, the company has added to the 622,000 acres in Pennsylvania that it recently gained with its February purchase of Atlas Energy.

While terms of its latest purchase weren't disclosed, Chevron will probably ante up about $1.6 billion for the acreage, or within striking distance of half the amount it paid for Atlas. Nevertheless, Chevron is still lagging behind Exxon, which last June paid $41 billion (including debt) for unconventional gas leader XTO Energy, a transaction that instantaneously catapulted the biggest member of Big Oil into a leadership among U.S. gas producers.

At the same time, Chevron continues to maintain a global repertoire of high-level oil and gas activities. For instance, it is the leader -- with Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-B  ) -- in the development of Australia's massive Gorgon LNG project. It also intends to spend $4 billion, along with Statoil (NYSE: STO  ) , on its Big Foot project in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Further, it has another $7.5 billion budgeted for its Jack and St. Malo fields in the Gulf.

The company has an enviable position in Saudi Arabia, where it is the only large international energy company involved with Saudi Aramco in the upstream. It's also active in a number of other venues, from the South China Sea to Nigeria, where its land and deepwater activities result in expenditures of about $3 billion annually.

But, returning to the Marcellus, leakage from a Chesapeake (NYSE: CHK  ) gas well last month resulted in the evacuation of families living near the incident, as did a blowout at a well owned by closely held CEL Properties. At this juncture, we can only speculate on how a continuation of these mishaps could affect the pace of drilling in the Marcellus.

All of Chevron's recent transactions haven't been on the buy side. On Monday, as it winnows its coal business, it completed mineral leases involving the production of Alabama metallurgical coal with Walter Energy (NYSE: WLT  ) , along with Walter's purchase of Chevron's North River steam and coal mine in the state's Fayette and Tuscaloosa counties.

For my money, Chevron is a soundly-managed and compelling member of Big Oil, one that -- given its range of activities -- deserves attention from Fools with an appetite for energy. Click here to add Chevron to a free Watchlist on and follow all of our updates on this oil and gas behemoth.

Chevron and Statoil are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. The Fool owns shares of Exxon Mobil. Alpha Newsletter Account, LLC owns shares of Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares of any of the companies named above.  The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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