Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has held early-stage talks with energy companies Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC about selling a share of the U.S. oil firm's massive natural gas discoveries off the coast of Mozambique, a senior government official in the country said Thursday.
The discovery of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas offshore Mozambique by Anadarko and Italy's Eni SpA has piqued the interest of some of the world's leading energy companies, which are keen to get a foothold in an area well placed to serve energy-hungry Asian export markets.
Anadarko, an oil and gas exploration company based outside Houston, has said it wants to sell up to 10% of its share of the energy trove.
"We know of Shell speaking to Anadarko, and of talks with ExxonMobil," said the Mozambique official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said, however, that Anadarko's talks with the companies so far hadn't brought firm offers as this would have been communicated to the government.
Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen declined to say which potential buyers Anadarko was talking to.
"We've had a lot of interest from a lot of players--a lot of the majors are very interested," he added.
Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said: "We don't comment on potential business opportunities."
Shell declined to comment.
"They don't have to tell us which type of discussions; only when it is at a very, very advanced stage do they come to the government and see if we agree," said the Mozambique official. "We have always said a deal will be acceptable if the buyer satisfies the technical and financial requirements, that is all. It is up to the seller to decide."
While Anadarko and Eni have said they want to retain a share in the finds, both firms have sought out investors to allow them to bank some early profits and defray some of the costs of developing a giant liquefied natural gas plant to cool and ship the gas to Asia.
Eni Thursday announced a deal worth $4.21 billion to sell a 20% stake in its field to Chinese state-owned oil company China National Petroleum Corp.
Although Anadarko and Eni agreed in December to jointly develop an LNG plant, neither has extensive experience with building and operating LNG plants, which can cost up to 10s of billions of dollars. By contrast, Exxon and Shell are two of the world's leading LNG investors and shippers.
"Anadarko wants someone with LNG expertise," said the official.
For Shell, buying into Anadarko's license area would be its second attempt at getting a position in Mozambique. Last year, the Anglo-Dutch energy company was outbid by Thailand's PTT Exploration & Production, which snapped up Anadarko's junior partner in the field, London-listed Cove Energy, for $1.9 billion.
Ben Lefebvre in Houston contributed to this report.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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