Calgary-based Encana Corp. announced Thursday it has reached an agreement to sell its North Texas natural gas properties for about $975 million US to partnerships managed by EnerVest Ltd. of Houston, Texas.

Encana said the proceeds will help to strengthen its balance sheet and provide financial flexibility going into 2012. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year. Encana acquired the properties in 2004.

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Encana 3-month TSX trading chart

Low natural gas prices have been a challenge for Encana. It expects to have raised about $1.7 billion from asset sales by the end of the year.

"As we look to 2012, we continue to focus on our highest return projects and we plan to direct a greater portion of our capital investment to grow our oil and natural gas liquids production," CEO Randy Eresman said.

"The sale of this North Texas asset in the Barnett Shale is part of Encana's ongoing portfolio optimization aimed at enhancing the long-term value of the company's vast resource potential," Eresman said in a release.

The North Texas properties produce 125 million cubic feet of gas per day, and the transaction will include related pipelines that run through about 20,000 net hectares of land in the Fort Worth Basin.

With files from The Canadian Press