Exxon to buy natural gas firm XTO

Exxon Mobil, the world's largest energy company, is the newest stakeholder in the fight over drilling in the Southern Tier.

In a move to capitalize on a trend toward domestic energy production, Exxon Mobil finalized terms to buy XTO Energy for $31 billion Monday. The deal includes XTO's rights to 47,000 acres in the Deposit area over a lucrative section of the Marcellus Shale -- a massive natural gas formation that runs from upstate New York through the Appalachian Basin.

Improved understanding of the Marcellus geology and technological innovations has made the massive reserve the target of well-capitalized energy companies. Early production of the Marcellus in northern Pennsylvania by companies including Range Resources, Cabot Oil & Gas and Fortuna Energy has exceeded industry expectations.

Exxon has signaled recently that it's attracted to natural gas assets. Once the deal closes, Exxon officials said, the company will establish a new organization to manage global development and production of unconventional resources, including the Marcellus.

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