Norway's Statoil is in discussions with PetroChina parent company China National Petroleum Corp on swapping assets with the mainland oil giant, in a deal that would give CNPC its first oil and gas holdings in Europe.
If realised, the deal might also allow Statoil, with daily output of 1.1 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe), to expand its presence in the mainland where its only investment is a 75 per cent stake in a marginally viable offshore oil field about 250km south of Hong Kong.
The disclosure was made yesterday by Statoil's director of operations in the mainland to reporters in Zhengzhou, Henan province. Without revealing specifics, Kristen Kjeldstad said Statoil was likely to be forced by the Norwegian government to divest some of its holdings in the North Sea after its impending US$32.1 billion merger with fellow energy firm Norsk Hydro.
The deal, due to be completed in October, would create an entity with operating rights over 80 per cent of Norway's oil and gas production, a dominance the government of Europe's largest oil producer said it would not countenance.
CNPC produced an average 2.86 million boe a day last year but most of it was onshore. A company spokesman declined to comment on the talks.
'The intention of the government is to have more than one company operating the key fields,' he said, adding the company was open to swapping its assets for either onshore and offshore assets of CNPC.
CNPC is beginning to develop its drilling capabilities in water depths beyond five metres. The company is poised to begin by June its first deep-water drilling programme in the South China Sea, where it has licences to explore some blocks.
Most of CNPC's domestic assets are owned by PetroChina, with only some overseas assets in politically sensitive nations such as Sudan owned directly by CNPC.
Mr Kjeldstad said the swap 'has not been discussed' with CNOOC, the mainland's largest offshore producer, despite a more than nine-year partnership the two have in the South China Sea's Lufeng oilfield.
The mature field was originally scheduled to shut in 2004 but new technology revived production.
It has yielded more than 37 million barrels since it came on stream in December 1997, according to Statoil.
Output is expected to range from 10,000 to 20,000 barrels a day until next year.
Mr Kjeldstad also said Statoil was looking at opportunities to invest in PetroChina's Luojiazhai gas field in Sichuan province where the latter was in talks with various foreign firms to tap their expertise to develop the difficult field.