Exxon, BHP axe lengthy sale of 50-year-old Australian oil fields

Perry Williams February 23, 2018

SYDNEY (Bloomberg) -- Two of the world’s biggest energy producers have abandoned the sale of some of Australia’s oldest oil fields after running a 20-month sales process.

ExxonMobil Corp. and BHP Billiton Ltd. will retain ownership and operation of fields, licenses and associated infrastructure held in the Gippsland basin Joint Venture after concluding a sale process, Exxon’s Esso Australia unit said Friday in a statement. The two companies reached a joint decision not to progress with the sale of offshore assets owned by the venture, a BHP spokesperson added in an email.

"After consideration of a range of options, we have currently decided to retain ownership and operation of these assets," Esso Australia, which operates the venture, said. BHP and Esso Australia each hold a 50% share. The JV began production in 1969, according to BHP.

Oil prices have recovered from a brutal bust earlier this decade that forced energy majors to either shut or sell aging fields as part of an industry wide cost-cutting drive. Brent crude, the global benchmark, has climbed 37% to about $66/bbl since Exxon and Shell first outlined their plan to sell the assets in June 2016.

Gippsland basin fields that were marketed include Perch, Dolphin, Seahorse, Tarwhine, Kingfish A, Kingfish B, West Kingfish, Fortescue, Halibut, Cobia, Mackerel, Blackback and Flounder, Esso said in its 2016 statement. Kingfish, discovered in 1967, was the first offshore oil field discovered in Australia and remains the largest, according to Exxon.

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