Chevron Corp. has agreed to acquire independent natural-gas producer Atlas Energy Inc. and its liabilities for $4.3 billion, joining its larger rival Exxon Mobil Inc. in making a bet on natural gas.

Atlas is a significant competitor in the Marcellus Shale, a natural-gas-rich rock formation in the eastern U.S. that has contributed to a surge in the fuel’s inventory and the resulting drop in the resource’s prices.

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