UPDATE 3-Noble Energy expects 2013 spending to rise to $3.9 bln

Thu Dec 6, 2012 4:35pm EST

* Expects 43 pct of 2013 budget to go to DJ Basin

* Sees 2013 sales volumes up about 20 pct

* Raised Q4 production forecast on DJ output

* Shares rise 3 pct

Dec 6 (Reuters) - Noble Energy Inc said it expects capital spending to rise marginally to $3.9 billion in 2013, with nearly two-thirds of the budget going to its onshore operations in the United States where it expects to pump more crude oil.

Facing lower prices for natural gas and natural gas liquids, a dip in West Texas Intermediate crude oil and logistics issues in some shale basins, U.S. exploration and production companies are expected to be more cautious when determining budgets for next year.

Noble had earmarked a total budget of $3.5 billion for 2012, of which it spent about $2.55 billion in the nine months ended Sept. 30. Oil and gas output is forecast to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 17 percent.

Noble Energy said nearly 43 percent of its next year's budget will go to operations in the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin, where its holds about 860,000 net acres and plans to grow production 25 percent next year..

Success in that basin, where the company is using the detailed analysis of real time data and other technology to boost its output, also led Noble to raise its production forecast for the fourth quarter.

The company's Niobrara properties are located within the DJ Basin that is centered in eastern Colorado but extends into southeast Wyoming, western Nebraska and western Kansas.

The Niobrara "has really evolved into a top-tier oil play," Charles Davidson, Noble's chief executive told reporters in Houston after the company's analyst meeting.

In addition, Noble said it will focus on developing its offshore projects in the Gulf of Mexico, eastern Mediterranean and western Africa next year.

On Monday, Australia's Woodside Petroleum said it would buy a 30 percent stake in Israel's massive Leviathan natural gas field, which Noble operates. Natural gas from Leviathan will first help satisfy growing demand for the fuel from Israel, with exports seen to Europe and Asia in coming years.

Woodside was selected as Noble's partner in the project because the company has expertise in liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects while Noble does not, Davidson said.

"We recognized that we did not have that experience," Davidson said. "I think it's a perfect partnership."

Noble Energy said it expects 2013 sales volumes from continuing operations to average between 270,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) and 282,000 boe/d, roughly 20 percent higher than this year, after adjusting for U.S. property sales closed in 2012.

Energy company analysts at Robert W. Baird & Co said the company's 2013 spending and production forecasts came in as expected.

The company now expects fourth-quarter sales volumes from continuing operations to be higher than the top end of its forecast of 248,000 boe/d to 252,000 boe/d due to strong production growth in the Denver-Julesburg Basin.

Noble Energy now sees current-quarter exploration expense of between $110 million and $130 million, down from $160 million to $200 million.

The company's shares, which have inched up 2 percent this year, closed up 3.4 percent at $99.33 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

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