Noble Energy rolls the dice on Nevada oil


* Targets areas of Nevada where little drilling seen so far

* Acreage to be tested with vertical wells

* Noble has 350,000 Nevada acres

By Anna Driver

Oct 11 (Reuters) - Noble Energy said on Thursday it plans toexplore for crude oil in areas of Nevada that have seen littledrilling, as the U.S. exploration and production company startsto assess its longer-term prospects.

Noble and other oil and gas companies rely on developedreserves to grow output and generate cash flow. Because thosereserves hold a finite amount of recoverable oil and gas,companies must always scout out riskier prospects for futuregrowth.

In addition to the 350,000 prospective acres Noble hasacquired in the far northeastern corner of Nevada, Noble toldanalysts on a conference call it plans to drill in waters offthe Falkland Islands and it will explore for "deep oil" in theMediterranean Sea.

"We do not expect all of them to work," Chuck Davidson,Noble's chief executive officer, said. "That is always true withexploration, but with the prospects that we have highlightedtoday, it would just take one to be successful to have a verymeaningful impact on our company."

On Noble's acreage in Nevada there are about seven very oldwells drilled. The company, which is in the process of acquiringseismic data, plans to first test the acreage using verticalwells. Depending on those results, Noble may switch tohorizontal drilling, Susan Cunningham, head of exploration, toldanalysts.

First production in Nevada is expected in 2014, but thecompany has assigned the project a 55 percent chance ofsucceeding. The acreage may hold up to 1.3 billion barrels oilequivalent, Noble said.

Oil-bearing rock formations in places like the Bakken andEagle Ford shale are already crowded with drillers, but thereare only a handful of small operators in Nevada.

Noble and its partners estimate their prospects off theFalkland Islands may hold up to 12 billion barrels oilequivalent. The Houston company will spend an estimated $180million to $230 million over three years on the project and seesproduction of 50,000 barrels per day by 2020.

In the eastern Mediterranean, Noble plans to explore for oillocated far beneath its Leviathan gas discovery. Production fromthe project is not expected until 2018 and it has a 25 percentchance of success, Noble estimates.

Shares of Noble fell 9 cents to $94.02 in midday New YorkStock Exchange trading. Since the start of the year, shares aredown 0.4 percent, similar to a 0.2 percent decline in the SIGindex of oil and gas companies.

(Reporting By Anna Driver)

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