Marathon on the Prowl in Poland's 'Unconventional' Gas Fields

HOUSTON (Dow Jones), Nov. 20, 2009

Marathon Oil is seeking to exploit "unconventional" gas fields in Poland, the company said Thursday. The Houston-based energy company joins U.S. majors ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil Corp. in tapping the eastern European oilpatch. The area is one of the few resource-holding regions of the world still open to international oil companies.

Unconventional fields are harder to exploit and more complex than conventional fields. The move also comes at a time when demand for gas produced in Europe is expected to grow vigorously as countries intensify their efforts to reduce their dependence on Russia as a supplier.

The companies seek to replicate the success of U.S. shale fields, which have greatly boosted production and reserves of once-dwindling North American natural gas.

In slides presented to analysts at an investor meeting in New York, the company said it had been awarded one gas shale license and is pursuing other opportunities. A spokesman said that the license, in which Marathon has 100% interest, was awarded "recently."

Marathon said it would spend about $3.5 billion in upstream operations next year, slightly above 2009 levels. About 13% of its upstream spending will go to unconventional plays. Marathon's downstream spending will total about $1 billion, down from about $2.3 billion in 2009, due to the completion of a major upgrade at its Garyville, Louisiana, refinery.  

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.