The Anschutz Corp. is coming back to Wyoming to look for oil.
On Wednesday, the Denver-based company confirmed that it has completed a $69 million land swap with Bill Barrett Corp. Anschutz will exchange nearly 8,000 acres in Colorado's Wattenberg Field for roughly 30,000 acres in the Powder River Basin.
The transaction marks a return of sorts for Anschutz, which, in the 1980s, turned the Anschutz Ranch Field outside Evanston into what was then one of the largest oil fields in the Rocky Mountains.
The field helped make Philip Anschutz, the company's owner, a billionaire. His assets would later grow to include railroads and entertainment companies, among others.
Anschutz Corp. has been active in Wyoming in recent years. Its subsidiary Power Company of Wyoming has proposed building the largest onshore wind farm in the country outside Saratoga.
The company also maintains interest in legacy wells in the Powder River Basin and a small number of natural gas wells in Pinedale.
But Wednesday's announcement represented what one company executive called a "major re-emphasis" on oil and gas in the state.
Two subsidiaries, Anschutz Exploration Corp. and Anschutz Oil Co., have been building their positions in the Powder River Basin over the past year, said Joseph DeDominic, president and COO of the two firms.
"We see a lot of potential in the Powder River Basin," DeDominic said. "We feel we’ve built a fairly sizable and well-maintained position."
He declined to disclose the details of the other transactions but said the company may do so in the future.
Anschutz has contracted its first drilling rig in the basin, and it is expected to begin work in November, DeDominic said.
The sale comes at a time when oil production in the Powder River Basin is increasing. On Monday, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported that production there had more than doubled between 2009 and 2014.
Bill Barrett's production increased from 9,370 barrels in 2009 to about 564,000 barrels last year, according to state figures.
The land swap with Anschutz was one of several deals announced by Bill Barrett on Tuesday, including the sale of the company's assets in Colorado's Piceance Basin to Vanguard Natural Resources for $525 million.
Three deals, disclosed in financial filings, saw Bill Barrett sell 17,000 acres in the Powder River Basin to Ballard Petroleum Holdings and Maurice W. Brown Oil and Gas, Wold Energy Partners, and SM Energy for a total $42.9 million.
A spokeswoman for SM Energy said the company acquired 2,500 acres in the sale.
"We’re excited to be increasing our position in the core of our Powder River Basin asset through this acquisition," Patty Errico said.
Bill Barrett executives said the moves will add $586 million in cash and reduce its debt from $1.1 billion to $450 million.
“These transactions are significant steps in meeting strategic objectives to simplify our portfolio, focus on our highest-return assets and strengthen the balance sheet," Bill Barrett CEO Scot Woodall said in a release.
The sale of its Powder River Basin assets included a combined 46,510 acres with daily production equivalent of 1,479 barrels.
As part of the deal with Bill Barrett, Anschutz acquired interest in 136 wells. It will assume operation of six wells, while 130 others will be operated by other companies.
The sales were scheduled to close Sept. 30.