A unit of Japan's Marubeni Corp. last week agreed to buy BP plc's stakes in four deepwater oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) for $650 million.

The fields' stakes, owned by subsidiary BP Exploration and Production Co., are in the Magnolia, Merganser, Nansen and Zia fields that BP acquired from Devon Energy Corp. earlier this year (see NGI, March 15).

"When BP acquired Devon's Gulf of Mexico assets it was clear that these four fields did not fit well with the rest of our business in the region," said Andy Hopwood, BP executive vice president of strategy and integration. "We therefore decided they would be of more value to another company than to BP."

The assets currently produce around 15,000 boe/d. Included is a quarter-stake in a ConocoPhillips-operated field in the Garden Banks area (Magnolia); a 50% stake in the Anadarko Petroleum Corp.-operated gas field in the Atwater Valley area (Merganser); a 50% interest in an Anadarko-operated field in the Western GOM (Nansen); and a 65% operating interest in a field in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Central GOM, known as Zia.

Marubeni said the purchases are expected to be completed early next year unless an existing partner of the four wells exercises its preemptive right. Upstream investment in the exploration sector, said Marubeni is "one of our core business lines, with a focus on acquiring good quality assets." Once the BP transaction closes, Marubeni's production interests in the GOM would total about 50,000 boe/d, up from current production interests of about 35,000 boe/d.

In related news, BP Group CEO Bob Dudley said the producer has no plans to pull out of the United States because of the BP-operated Macondo well explosion in late April. BP plans to sell up to $30 billion of its global properties to pay for damages and litigation related to the spill, which "threatened the very existence of our company," Dudley admitted.

"People have been asking whether the U.S. will turn its back on BP, or we will turn our back on the U.S.," Dudley said in a speech to U.S. fuel marketers. "I have already indicated that I believe our relationships with the U.S. government, states and the American people can survive this crisis. We intend to be very cooperative and transparent with regulators and others, and I do not believe we will lose our license to operate here.

"And for our part, I can promise you that I did not become chief executive of BP in order to walk away from my home country," said the CEO, who was born in Mississippi. "BP will not be quitting America. There is too much at stake, both for BP and the U.S. The U.S. has major energy needs and BP is a vital contributor to fulfilling them."

In addition to extensive GOM operations -- BP is the largest leaseholder and producer in the GOM -- the company is "opening up new supplies of unconventional gas," said Dudley. "We are becoming a leading wind energy player and we have a long established solar business. BP is one of the largest blenders of biofuels in the nation and we are leading in developing the next generation of biofuels.

"We are part of America's fabric and that is how we intend to stay. I think the very idea that BP could 'leave' presumes that BP is somehow an outsider in the U.S. As far as I am concerned, our headquarters may be in London but my roots are in Mississippi and Illinois, and on my watch this company will stay in America, grow in America and build ever-stronger relationships in America."

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