Marathon Oil Corp. has notified Libya's National Oil Co. that it is considering selling its stake in Libya's largest foreign-oil partnership, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The reason cited by company officials for such move is that the US company has increased its focus on the growth potential of its shale assets at home.
On behalf of the government, Libya's National Oil is reviewing whether to allow the sale process to proceed but hasn't yet decided what to do, the oil officials said.
Libyan Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak said the National Oil Co. would have a preferential right to buy Marathon's stake in the Libyan oil concessions.
In a back-of-the-envelope calculation, one Libyan oil official said that a divestment such as the one sought by Marathon could fetch $2 billion to $3 billion.
A Marathon withdrawal from Libya would widen the effects on African oil-producing nations of the US shale boom. US oil imports from Nigeria, Algeria and Angola have dropped sharply in recent months as American oil production has displaced Africa's similar-quality light crudes, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) added.
Marathon sold an Angola oil-field stake last month to one of China Petrochemical Corp.'s joint ventures for $1.5 billion.
The company's Eagle Ford, Bakken and Oklahoma shale interests in the US "form the core of Marathon Oil's growth assets," its website says. "We expect these assets to account for more than 36% of our total global production by 2016, up from 21% in 2013."
Marathon's net production from the three shale assets grew to about 109,600 barrels a day on average in December 2012, compared with 41,500 barrels a day in December 2011, according to company data released in February as quoted by WSJ.
A Marathon spokeswoman declined to comment on the company's plans in Libya, saying, "We don't comment on rumors."
Marathon owns a 16.3% stake in the concessions of Libya's Waha Oil Co. consortium, the country's largest foreign partnership with production of 350,000 barrels a day. ConocoPhillips holds 16.3%, Hess Corp. has 8.2% and Libya's National Oil Co. holds the rest.
The three US oil companies in the Waha consortium returned to Libya in 2005 after the lifting of international economic sanctions imposed on the regime dictator Gaddafi