According to reports, CNOOC has hired Macquarie
, the investment bank
, to advise on the possible acquisition of Royal Dutch Shell's oil assets in Australia's North West Shelf.
Shell has made no secret of its plans to focus its Australian efforts
on expanding its liquefied natural gas operations. Two months ago the Anglo-Dutch group signed a 20-year agreement with PetroChina for LNG from the Gorgon project off Western Australia for an undisclosed sum.
Shell is one of six equal partners in Australia's North West Shelf, which also includes BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, Japan Australia LNG and Woodside Petroleum. Cossack Pioneer is the oil producing part of North West Shelf being looked at by CNOOC.
Cossack is operated by Woodside, the Australian oil and gas producer that is also part-owned by Shell.
Woodside said on Thursday that Cossack's year to date production to the end of the third quarter averaged just under 79,000 barrels a day. It also flagged potential appraisal drilling for 2008 and an upgrade to the field's subsea infrastructure the following year.
Woodside and at least one other equity owner in Cossack have pre-emption rights if a partner wishes to sell.
None of the parties would put a valuation on Shell's stake. However, market speculation suggested that it might be worth about $446m.
Source: Financial Times