Apache may have struck it big in West Texas

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DALLAS (AP) — A Houston driller is boasting of a big new oil and gas discovery in West Texas.

Apache Corp. believes there could be 3 billion barrels of oil and 75 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in an area it calls Alpine High.

The company announced its discovery Wednesday after two years of drilling in the largely undeveloped region.

Apache shares are up 8 percent in midday trading.

Apache said it's accumulated more than 300,000 acres and drilled 19 wells in Alpine High, a small part of the sweeping and energy-rich Permian Basin of Texas.

CEO John Christmann says others have mistakenly overlooked the area.

"It is a world-class resource play," Christmann said at a Barclays investor conference in New York. "This really is a giant onion that is going to take us years and years to peel back and uncover."

Christmann said the heart of the find, in Reeves County, Texas, hasn't been worked over by oil companies because the geology of the area was considered too complex.

The remote and difficult location means that the field is likely to require significant investment before achieving its potential. Apache said only nine of its 19 wells were producing oil or gas, and those are pumping limited quantities because of the poor infrastructure.

Apache shares rose $4.09 to $55.76, but at one point jumped 14 percent when news of the possible find began to surface. While up 16 percent this year, the company's stock can be bought for about half what they fetched before energy prices began to slide in mid-2014.