Liquids Should Be Healthy for Encana

With Halliburton (NYS: HAL) having kicked off earnings season for the energy sector on Monday, and ConocoPhillips (NYS: COP) set to lead off for Big Oil next Wednesday, Encana (NYS: ECA) has stepped up with its own solid results for the third quarter.

Encana, which calls Calgary home, along with a number of other sizable independent producers, such as Suncor Energy (NYS: SU) , generated operating earnings of $171 million, or $0.23 per share, for the quarter. Those metrics obviously dwarfed the $85 million and $0.12 per share for the same quarter a year ago, along with the consensus expectation of $0.09. At the same time, the company was able to increase its production by 6% per share in the quarter, thereby remaining in striking distance of its avowed target of 5% to 7% for the year.

As has become typical for companies of various sizes operating in North America -- includingChesapeake Energy (NYS: CHK) , which originally led the discovery or development of many of the U.S. unconventional gas plays -- Encana is progressing with a program aimed at increasing the percentage of its reserves and production tied to higher-yielding liquids plays. In the process, the company, which is active in both Canada and the U.S., is unloading a variety of midstream assets, with an eye to generating funds for redeploying in those liquid plays.

For instance, included in the company's targeted sales are a part of its Piceance midstream assets in Colorado, which are going to Dallas-based Summit Midstream Partners. And its Cabin Gas Plant in the Horn River Basin is being sold to Enbridge (NYS: ENB) . The two transactions will yield a total of about $800 million.

Also likely to be sold soon are a portion of the company's assets in the Cutbank Ridge area of British Columbia and Alberta and its Barnett Shale assets in North Texas. For a time, it appeared that Encana would establish a Cutbank Ridge joint venture with PetroChina (NYS: PTR) , but that possibility was scuttled earlier this year.

On the development side, Encana is concentrating on five liquid-rich plays ranging from Alberta to Mississippi. Those prospects are composed of the Duvernay Shale in Alberta, Colorado's Niobrara formation and Piceance Basin, the Collingwood Shale in Michigan, and the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale in Mississippi. The company is also forming additional joint ventures to accelerate the development of its bank of assets.

For my money, Encana's no-nonsense approach to its asset allocation is impressive and is likely to benefit shareholders substantially in the years ahead. Given the level and pace of the company's restructuring, you might wish to keep closer tabs on the company by adding it to My Watchlist.

At the time thisarticle was published Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Fool contributorDavid Lee Smithdoesn't own shares in any of the companies named above. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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