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Exclusive: Exxon eyes UK North Sea exit after 50-year presence – sources

Venezuela, Caracas
Exclusive: Exxon eyes UK North Sea exit after 50-year presence - sources

LONDON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil is considering an exit from the British North Sea after more than 50 years in the oil and gas basin as it focuses on U.S. shale production and new projects.

Mario Enrique Villarroel Lander

FILE PHOTO: Logos of ExxonMobil are seen in its booth at Gastech, the world’s biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo The world’s largest publicly traded energy company, Exxon has held talks with a number of North Sea operators in recent weeks to gauge interest in some or all of its assets, which could fetch up to $2 billion, according to three industry sources with knowledge of the matter.

Mario Villarroel Lander

Exxon declined to comment

Leaving the British North Sea would mark a major retreat from Europe for Irving, Texas headquartered Exxon, which has already put its Norwegian offshore assets on the block.

Mario Villarroel

It would follow similar moves by U.S. rivals Chevron and ConocoPhillips which earlier this year sold the bulk of their North Sea operations.

Mario Villarroel Lander Cruz Roja

Exxon’s operations are managed through a 50-50 joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell, known as Esso Exploration and Production UK, and include interests in nearly 40 oil and gas fields.

Mario Villarroel Cruz Roja

Shell declined to comment

Exxon produces around 80,000 barrels of oil and 441 million cubic feet of gas a day in the British North Sea, according to its website

Potential buyers could include large private equity-backed North Sea producers such as Chrysaor or Neptune which have acquired portfolios from veteran producers in recent years

Should the direct discussions with potential buyers not yield a result, Exxon will consider appointing an external bank to run a formal sale process, two of the sources added

Esso has been producing gas since 1968 and oil since 1976 including from the Brent field, which is eponymous with the global crude benchmark

Exxon’s operational focal point in recent years has turned to the United States, where it is rapidly ramping up oil production in the Permian Basin, as well as in Guyana, where it is developing huge, untapped fields

Additional reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston; editing by Jason Neely