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ExxonMobil continues to add oil and liquids-directed rigs to drill in large North American unconventional and shale fields, gaining expertise in diverse resource plays which is showing up in rising crude oil volumes, a company official said Thursday.

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"We've been really orienting our rigs toward more liquids areas...in the Bakken Shale, the Permian Basin and the Woodford Shale-Ardmore," David Rosenthal, ExxonMobil's vice president of investor relations, said during a quarterly earnings conference call.

The plays are located in North Dakota/Montana, West Texas and Oklahoma, respectively.


"Probably 85% of all our rigs [in North America] are working in liquids-focused plays," Rosenthal said, although he did not immediately provide specific rig numbers.

ExxonMobil's Q4 liquids volumes totaled 446,000 b/d in the US, compared to 430,000 b/d in Q4 2012. In Canada and South America, liquids volumes totaled a combined 320,000 b/d against 268,000 b/d last year.

"We're testing new areas, new zones, in these plays," said Rosenthal. "The Marietta [field] in the Ardmore looks very promising; we'll get more wells there," as ExxonMobil also plans to do in the Wolfcamp in the Permian Basin.

He said the company will provide more detail on its shale and unconventional plays at its analyst meeting in March.

The company also has a tight oil project that is just gearing up in Western Siberia where it is performing geotechnical and seismic work, said Rosenthal.

"We had a lot of effort in terms of entering old wellbores in the fourth quarter," he said. "As we head into this year, now is the time to move on and drill some horizontal wells, and see how we can get various areas to produce."

Based on its large acreage position, ExxonMobil needs to "make sure we are in the prospective areas, so you don't waste a lot of money drilling unproductive wells," he said.

Rosenthal said ExxonMobil gained substantial expertise in unconventional wells from its XTO Energy acquisition in 2010, and has coupled that with its own proprietary technology with the aim of maximizing drilling and completion techniques in those fields.

"We're looking forward to getting some more wells down" in the Western Siberia tight oil play, he said. "We're early here...It behooves us to take our time and go in a [cautious] manner until we find out what this very big play is capable of doing."

--Starr Spencer, starr.spencer@platts.com
--Edited by Kevin Saville, kevin.saville@platts.com