The Deal

) -

Chevron Canada

, an indirect unit of oil and gas giant


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said late Thursday, Aug. 1, it agreed to acquire all interests in the Duvernay shale formation in west-central Alberta from

Alta Energy Luxembourg Sarl

and affiliates. While financial details weren't disclosed, sources said that the deal that came in at just south of $1 billion.

The sale was a winner for Alta backer

Blackstone Group

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--a source with knowledge of the deal called the sale "very attractive" for the private equity firm. That person also described the acreage as "outstanding" for Chevron, which already owns properties in the area.

A Chevron Canada spokesman wouldn't comment and Blackstone and Alta didn't respond immediately to requests for comment.

The acquired interests cover 67,900 net acres in the Duvernay, which is a hot play in oil and gas circles, both for its natural gas--which could potentially supply future liquefied natural gas projects exporting to Asia --and its natural gas liquids, which fetch a higher market price. Talisman Energy Inc. also is selling its properties in the Duvernay area and Penn West Petroleum Ltd. could be as well.

Other oil giants have already poured into the region.


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sold 49.9% of its 445,000 acres in the Duvernay play to a unit of


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this past December as part of a joint venture deal for C$2.18 billion ($2.2 billion), which, at $9,800 per acre, turned some heads. And in October


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Celtic Exploration

--which owned 100,000 acres in the Duvernay shale as well as 545,000 acres in the Montney shale--for $3.1 billion.


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bought properties in the Duvernay in the fall of 2011 and

Royal Dutch Shell

paid $5.2 billion for Duvernay Oil Corp. in 2008.

Chevron Canada president Jeff Lehrmann said in the release that the agreement strengthens the company's land position in the core part of this prospective wet shale gas play, where it has exploration leases totaling more than 250,000 acres. Chevron Canada in the second half of 2011 began a multiwell exploration program for unconventional resources in the Duvernay formation and said it achieved initial production last year on the 100%-owned and operated leases. "To date, we have been encouraged by the reservoir data and production performance from our exploration drilling program on our Kaybob Duvernay leases," Lehrmann said. "We are pleased to add to our acreage in this play as we advance our program to evaluate the potential for full-field commercial development."

In 2011 Blackstone and privately-held

Alta Resources

agreed to invest as much as $1 billion in

Alta Energy Partners

--headed by Alta Resources CEO Joseph Greenberg --to acquire and develop unconventional oil and natural gas assets in North America.

Greenberg, who had previously worked as a geologist at Royal Dutch Shell and

Edge Petroleum

, joined forces several years ago with recently deceased shale pioneer George Mitchell to develop the Fayetteville shale field in Arkansas and Texas and ended up posting about an eightfold gain on its sale.

Written by Claire Poole.