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ExxonMobil 'eyes UK North Sea exit' - report

US sumermajor considering quitting basin after more than 50 years, report says

ExxonMobil is considering an exit from the UK North Sea after more than 50 years in the oil and gas basin as it focuses on US shale production and new projects.

The world’s largest publicly traded energy company, ExxonMobil 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.

ExxonMobil declined to comment to Reuters.

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

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

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

Shell declined to comment to Reuters.

ExxonMobil produces around 80,000 barrels of oil and 441 million cubic feet of gas a day in the UK 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, ExxonMobil 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.

ExxonMobil’s operational focal point in recent years has turned to the US, where it is rapidly ramping up oil production in the Permian basin, as well as in Guyana, where it is developing huge, untapped fields.

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