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In a sign that oil companies have realized where the biggest returns can be reaped after the downturn, Marathon Oil Corporation said on Thursday that it is divesting its Canadian oil sands operations and acquiring acreage in the Permian Basin.
Marathon Oil has signed a deal to sell its Canadian subsidiary—that includes a 20-percent non-operated interest in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP)—to Shell and Canadian Natural Resources Limited for US$2.5 billion in cash, excluding closing adjustments. The sale further simplifies and concentrates Marathon Oil’s portfolio to the lower cost, higher margin U.S. resource plays, the company said.
One of the buyers of the AOSP, Shell, said earlier today that it is selling all its oil sands production assets in Canada, except for the stake in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project. Shell’s divestitures in the oil sands are part of its US$30-billion divestment program aimed at reducing its debt load that it accumulated with the acquisition of BG Group.
Apart from selling assets in Canada, Marathon Oil signed a deal to buy around 70,000 net surface acres in the Permian basin from BC Operating, Inc and other entities for US$1.1 billion in cash, excluding closing adjustments. The acquisition includes 51,500 acres in the Northern Delaware basin of New Mexico, with current output of around 5,000 net barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed).
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Commenting on the rationales for the two deals, Marathon Oil President and CEO Lee Tillman said in the company statement:
“Historically, our interest in the Canadian oil sands has represented about a third of our Company's other operating and production expenses, yet only about 12 percent of our production volumes. The Northern Delaware basin features outstanding well economics that compete at the top of our organic portfolio and is experiencing a positive rate of change in well performance unrivaled in U.S. unconventional basins.”
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and…