I would like to remind everyone that this conference call is being recorded on Wednesday, August 1, at 11 a.m. Mountain Time.I will now turn the conference over to Mr. John Manzoni. You may begin your conference. John A. Manzoni Thank you, Matthew. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining our call this morning. As usual, I'm joined by the management team who will help to answer your questions after Scott and I have given you an overview of the quarter. I'd also like to welcome today Paul Warwick for the first time, who joined us in mid-May with the responsibility for International Operations (West), and naturally spend much of his time so far getting into the North Sea operations, whereas you saw last week, we've been relatively busy. As usual, let me start with a word or 2 about commodity prices. Brent prices dipped during the quarter on concerns of slowing economies and slower demand and then recovered again, but we've consistently felt that $90 to $100 Brent is a good range, and we continue to believe that today. In the medium term, we'll have to see how much the potential increases in onshore production in North America adjust the prices [ph], but for now, I see no reason to adjust our base projection. WTI prices remain low relative to Brent, and we don't see that situation changing much in the near term. North American gas prices are looking marginally stronger as we look forward as a result of gradually improving outlook for storage. A few weeks of hot weather, along with the continued reduction in dry gas activity, has now improved the prospects of not filling up the storage box in North America and hence, the forward curve is creeping upwards. We still believe not much will happen before October, November and so for this year, we're remaining relatively cautious. But as we move into the fourth quarter, there are a number of increasing number of voices with a more positive tone.
In Asia, our realizations continue to be very strong, and we saw gas prices in the second quarter well above $9, reflecting the strong supply and demand fundamentals in that region.Turning to our second quarter. We had a strong quarter in terms of delivery. The main headline for the quarter is the agreement we've reached with Sinopec to buy 49% of our U.K. business for $1.5 billion, delivering on the promise we made earlier this year. The deal is good for Talisman, good for Sinopec, and good for our U.K. business. On the perspective of the U.K. business, it'll result in incrementally more capital investment into the assets than we would have invested ourselves. This will be very positive as we continue to improve our operational reliability and concentrate on some big investment projects in the next phase of our U.K. development. From Talisman's perspective, we will still invest net less than we would have had we kept 100% of the business ourselves. We've accelerated cash delivery from the business, and of course, we've significantly reduced our exposure to abandonment. So overall, I'm delighted that we finalized that part of our repositioning with the U.K. now a smaller part of Talisman's portfolio. I'm looking forward to working with our new partners in the U.K. to develop the business there. Production was 435,000 barrels a day, up about 4% on the same quarter a year ago and also against the first half last year. North America delivered a strong quarter as the Eagle Ford continued to build, and we saw lower-than-expected base decline in the Marcellus despite the significant reduction in activity there. Our Asian business delivered 130,000 barrels a day, growing about 12% year-on-year overall with liquids growth about double that rate driven by the new developments at Kitan and Jambi Merang. In terms of activity, we're continuing to drive the Eagle Ford with good results. Our drilling cycle times continue to improve, which prompted Paul Smith to increase the production expectation for the year to between 12,000 and 17,000 barrels a day when he spoke in May. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com