Exxon makes move on XTO: Purchase will affect 2 Cook Inlet platforms

Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded company, made a move to buy Houston based XTO Energy, in a deal announced Monday.

The natural gas giant XTO owns assets in Alaska, including two crude producing off shore platforms in Cook Inlet.

Exxon will buy XTO in an all-stock deal worth $31 billion that some analysts say could signal a new rush to own natural gas assets by major producers, and perhaps the start of a significant consolidation in the energy industry.

"Exxon is the group leader and it sets the trend. I would expect more acquisitions in the next three to six months," Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst for Oppenheimer told the Associated Press.

Exxon is closely watched in the industry and an acquisition like XTO could prompt other companies like Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP BLC or Chevron Corp. to move.

Potential targets include big natural gas companies like Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and Anadarko, Gheit said.

XTO claims about 45 trillion cubic feet of gas, much of it trapped in tight formations known as shale.

In Cook Inlet, XTO holds two platforms, XTO A and C, according to Alan Dennis, an asset manager for the Department of Natural Resource's Division of Oil and Gas.

The platforms are located off the coast of Nikiski in the Middle Ground Shoal Oil Field and in 2008, Dennis said production averaged about 2,800 barrels of crude a day.

The platforms are tied via pipeline to the peninsula.

Since the early 1970s, production in the fields has steadily declined.

Dennis said the company generally focuses on natural gas production and estimated their total production around the country to be between 60,000 and 70,000 barrels of crude a day.

"The Alaska assets are a tiny fraction of XTO," Dennis said.

He reported that neither company had contacted his office regarding the acquisition.

A call placed to the production superintendent at XTO on Tuesday was not immediately returned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com

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