OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Executives with Devon Energy Corp. said Friday the company's large amount of potential resources particularly in the Barnett Shale in north Texas bodes well for its sustained growth.

Oklahoma City-based Devon is now producing about 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Barnett Shale, about 1.5 percent of the total U.S. consumption of the product, said Steve Hadden, Devon's senior vice president for exploration and production.

Hadden said Devon's production from the Barnett Shale could double over time and that Devon's resource base including the shale holds the potential of producing about 24 billion oil-equivalent barrels. That would be nearly 10 times more than Devon's current proven reserve base.

"We have built a very strong, very focused portfolio in some of the best places in the world to explore," Hadden said. " Access is very important and we continue to add to it."

The Barnett Shale is the largest natural gas field in Texas, covering about 5,000 acres and consisting of more than 8,000 wells. Natural gas was first discovered there in 1981 and horizontal drilling techniques developed within the last decade have allowed companies such as Devon to more easily remove it from the shale's heavy rock.

Devon spokesman Chip Minty said the Barnett Shale field produces 3.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day. Devon has about 3,200 wells operating in the field and is adding 500 to 600 wells per year, he said.

Hadden said Devon believes its Barnett Shale properties hold 18.3 trillion cubic feet of gas equivalent resources, the equivalent of 3 billion barrels of oil.

That's a conservative estimate, he said, even though that number is larger than Devon's entire company now. Devon, the largest U.S.-based independent producer of oil and natural gas, has about 2.5 billion oil-equivalent barrels of proven reserves.

Considering the company's resource base, "it should be clear that Devon has the opportunity to achieve meaningful growth for many years to come," Devon Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Larry Nichols said.

Nichols said the company should "see sustained production growth without depletion of assets" and said it would be difficult to replicate the company's current asset base.

"Our growth is a challenge we have met in the past and will continue to meet," he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.