Exxon launches shale gas sales in the United States to revive stalled divestments



A view of the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on May 15, 2021.

Kathleen Flynn | Reuters

Exxon Mobil has started marketing shale gas properties in the United States as it accelerates a long-standing program that aims to raise billions of dollars to get rid of unwanted assets and reduce debt incurred last year.

Three years ago, America’s largest oil producer set a target of raising $ 15 billion in sales by December. More recently, he pledged to speed up late sales to reduce record debt of $ 70 billion.

The company’s XTO Energy shale unit is seeking buyers for nearly 5,000 natural gas wells in the Fayetteville shale in Arkansas, spokesperson Julie King confirmed. Exxon is marketing the properties itself and aims to receive offers this month, people familiar with the matter said.

“We provide information to third parties who may have an interest in the assets,” King said. No buyer has been identified, she said, declining to confirm the August tender or the company’s anticipated value on the wells.

Exxon has hit about a third of its three-year $ 15 billion target with declining activity and asset values ​​during the pandemic. It received sales proceeds of $ 557 million through June and has outstanding deals valued at more than $ 2.15 billion.

Exxon acquired the Fayetteville assets in 2010 for $ 650 million amid a shale boom that would change the US energy landscape. The boom led to an oversupply of gas that pushed prices to record highs and last year led Exxon to reduce the value of its US oil and gas holdings by $ 17.1 billion.

The Arkansas properties cover some 416,000 net acres (1,680 square kilometers) and are part of the North American natural gas resources cut last year from Exxon’s development plan. The sale includes 844 operated wells and 4,104 non-operated wells, King said.

Exxon, suffered a historic loss of $ 22.4 billion in 2020, and its divestment program covers dozens of properties in Asia, Africa, the United States and Europe.

The company is prioritizing debt reduction and its dividend to shareholders, officials said last month. After total debt doubled last year to nearly $ 70 billion since 2018, Exxon has repaid more than $ 7 billion this year, to reduce its burden to $ 60.6 billion.

This year, he spoke to Britain’s Savannah Energy SAVES.L about properties in Chad and Cameroon and sold stakes in two deep-water oil fields to Occidental Petroleum and others.

Exxon is seeing renewed interest in its properties with the rebound in oil and gas prices this year, said Jack Williams, senior vice president of Exxon on July 30.

“This whole divestment discussion that we’ve had in the past continues,” Williams said.


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