Imperial, Exxon, BP form Arctic Canada venture

Fri Jul 30, 2010 5:44pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Imperial Oil Ltd, Exxon Mobil Corp and BP Plc have formed a joint venture to explore for oil and gas in acreage the oil majors hold in the Beaufort Sea in Canada's Arctic, Imperial said on Friday.

Under the deal, signed this month, the companies will team up to explore, and possibly develop, offshore blocks they picked up for hundreds of millions of dollars in 2007 and 2008, Imperial's Gordon Wong said.

The aim is to avoid costly duplication of equipment and personnel in the remote, icy Beaufort, where there is little energy industry infrastructure.

The companies signed the agreement as Canadian regulators prepared to review offshore drilling requirements in the country in the aftermath of BP's well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, which triggered the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

However, they began their talks in 2009, long before the Gulf disaster, Wong said.

"This really predated that. These discussions have been ongoing for quite a long period of time and so we've recently reached an agreement," he said.

Imperial and its majority owner, Exxon Mobil, will each own 25 percent of the venture and one of them will be operator. BP will own the remaining 50 percent.

The partners will not start exploratory work on the acreage until after Canada's National Energy Board completes its review of offshore safety and environmental impact, Wong said.   Continued...