In this week's news, GE and Baker Hughes have agreed to a deal; Nobel and Consol energy companies have ended a partnership; and the rig count continues to rise

General Electric has agreed to merge its oil and gas business with oilfield services firm Baker Hughes, according to a news release from the U.S. manufacturing giant on Oct. 31.

The deal, which has been approved by boards from both companies, will create the second-largest firm in the oilfield services industry.

Under the terms, GE will own 62.5 percent of the merged company, while Baker Hughes shareholders will own the rest. The new company will have operations in more than 120 countries.

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Noble, Consol End Partnership in Marcellus Shale Play

Noble Energy and Consol Energy announced on Oct. 31 that they have ended their shale exploration partnership in the Marcellus drilling region.

The two forged an agreement for joint exploration and development of 669,000 acres across Pennsylvania and West Virginia, in 2011. Noble will now have 363,000 acres, producing about 450 million cubic feet per day of natural gas equivalent and Consol will have 306,000 acres producing 620 million cubic feet per day.

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In a statement, Noble president David Stover says that the relation with Consol was “outstanding,” but that separation is a good move for both companies.

Rig Count Continues Rise

The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by four this week to 557, according to data released by oilfield services company Baker Hughes on Oct. 28.

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The Houston oilfield services company says that 441 rigs sought oil and 114 explored for natural gas. Two were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, 775 rigs were active.

Among major oil- and gas-producing states, North Dakota gained five rigs, Pennsylvania and Texas each were up two and Wyoming added one. Colorado declined by three rigs and New Mexico lost two.

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