(Adds earnings comparison, production details, stock)
By Ernest Scheyder
HOUSTON, April 27 (Reuters) - Whiting Petroleum Corp , North Dakota’s largest oil producer, scrapped plans on Wednesday to freeze drilling and fracking new wells after an infusion of cash from an unnamed investor, a step that should help it survive the plunge in oil prices.
The plan, announced as Whiting reported a larger-than-expected quarterly loss, led the company to boost the bottom range of its output forecast for the year despite having less than half of its production hedged.
Whiting inked a deal with an investor who will take a 50 percent interest in 44 North Dakota wells and bear 65 percent of the drilling and fracking costs.
A Whiting representative was not immediately available to comment on why the investor was not named.
Whiting said it has already received $30.7 million as part of the agreement, and as such will continue to run two drilling rigs and add a fracking crew in North Dakota, the second-largest U.S. oil producing state.
The cash serves as a major infusion for a company with only $1 million in the bank.
Whiting had stopped fracking at the beginning of the month and had begun to wind down drilling operations, announcing plans to spend only $160 million this year after June, mostly on maintenance.
Based on the new operations, Whiting now plans to produce 131,400 to 136,900 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) this year, compared to a previous forecast of 128,000 to 138,000 boepd.
Most of the new wells are expected to start production in the second half of the year.
The company posted a first-quarter net loss of $171.7 million, or 84 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $106.1 million, or 63 cents per share, in the year-ago period.
Excluding a loss on the sale of properties and other one-time items, Whiting lost 85 cents per share.
By that measure, analysts expected a loss of 72 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Production fell 12 percent to 146,770 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).
Shares of Denver-based Whiting fell 4.3 percent to $11.70 in after-hours trading. As of Wednesday’s close, the stock had gained 30 percent so far this year.
Whiting plans a conference call to discuss the quarterly results on Thursday morning. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by David Gregorio, Bernard Orr)