US oil giant ConocoPhillips said yesterday that it had received an “unsolicited offer” for its UK North Sea portfolio.
ConocoPhillips confirmed it was marketing the assets, but suggested it was not prepared to sell on the cheap.
The firm, which operates the Britannia field, is one of several international oil companies to have been linked with an exit from the North Sea this year, including Chevron and Marathon Oil.
Chevron recently put its entire central North Sea portfolio up for sale and agreed to divest its 40% operated interests in the Rosebank development to Equinor.
ConocoPhillips’s assets are likely to spark interest among newer, private-equity-backed companies which have been buying mature fields from majors.
ConocoPhillips announced in July that it would sell 16.5% of its equity in the Clair Field to BP, leaving it with 7.5%.
At the time, Luke Parker, analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said ConocoPhillips’s complete withdrawal from the UK seemed “likely to follow”.
Mr Parker said ConocoPhillips had “other priorities closer to home”, namely in US shale oil and Alaska.
ConocoPhillips’s plans to lay off about 450 workers across the UK, announced in April, also cast doubts on the firm’s commitment to the North Sea.
The redundancies are a consequence of ConocoPhillips’s decision to halt production from a number of southern North Sea fields served by the Theddlethorpe gas terminal in Lincolnshire.
However, the company has continued to explore in the UK continental shelf.
Earlier this year, ConocoPhillips revealed it had an on-going multi-well development and exploration drilling programme in the central North Sea J-Area, which consists of the Jade, Jasmine, Joanne and Judy fields.
It awarded a contract to Australian energy service firm WorleyParsons to provide a range of services for a subsea tieback project offshore UK.
But Bloomberg reported yesterday that the business would invite bids for its remaining UK assets by the end of the year.
A ConocoPhillips spokeswoman said: “ConocoPhillips is marketing its UK assets after receiving an unsolicited offer.
“If offers do not meet the company’s expectations for value, ConocoPhillips will retain the assets.
“We won’t comment on any further details about the process.”