Image: Prudhoe Bay oil field facility
BP via Getty Images file
This photo provided by BP shows the company's Prudhoe Bay oil field facility in in Prudoe Bay, Alaska.
msnbc.com
updated 7/11/2010 11:09:30 PM ET 2010-07-12T03:09:30

BP is in talks to sell up to $12 billion of assets, including its big stake in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field in North America, The Sunday Times of London reported.

A sale would be the latest of several steps the beleaguered oil giant is taking to raise money to pay for damages from the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Times said.

BP has entered talks with American rival Apache Corp., which approached the British company, the Times said. Negotiations are under way over the structure of the agreement and what other assets could be included, it said.

Houston, Texas-based Apache describes itself as an independent energy company in exploration and development of natural gas and crude oil. The firm operates in the United States, Canada, Egypt, Australia, North Sea and Argentina. Apache is worth $30 billion and is one of America's largest independent oil groups, according to Reuters. Apache reported first-quarter earnings of $705 million on revenue of $2.7 billion. Its shares closed Friday up 48 cents at $87.88.

Word of the BP talks comes as the company is trying to install a tighter seal over the leaking Gulf well, which has been pouring oil since a blowout in April, the Times said. A relief well that may close it off could be complete before the end of the month.

The Times said good news from the Gulf coupled with BP's depressed stock price could tempt rivals to consider bids.

BP’s shares finished on Friday at $34.05, just over half of its 52-week peak.

Besides selling assets, BP is raising billions from bond issues and bank loans, the Times said.

The cash will help to reassure investors that the cost of the cleanup will not overwhelm the company, the Times said. Goldman Sachs, the American investment bank, thinks BP could ultimately be forced to pay $70 billion in cleanup and compensation costs.

Getting a stake in Prudhoe Bay would be a coup for Apache, the Times said. It is one of the largest oil fields discovered and one of BP’s prize assets. It produces 390,000 barrels a day, equivalent to 15 percent of the United Kingdom's North Sea output.

BP’s partners in the field, Exxon and Conoco Philips, are likely to have pre-emption rights that would allow them to match any offer made by Apache, the Times said.

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Video: Oil flows freely as BP readies new cap

  1. Transcript of: Oil flows freely as BP readies new cap

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: That delicate operation to place a new cap atop the gushing oil well beneath the Gulf of Mexico got under way this afternoon. It's a bit of a gambit that, for the time being , means there is no cap over the leak, and that's allowing thousands of more barrels of oil to freely pour into the sea. But BP says the trade-off is that by as soon as next week engineers could have a new, tighter-fitting cap in place, one capable of capturing most if not all the leaking oil. It's an operation fraught with risks and outlined with plenty of caveats, but it is raising a glimmer of hope tonight amid what had been a blackened tide of mostly bad news. NBC 's Anne Thompson is in Venice , Louisiana , tonight with the latest for us. Anne , good evening.

    ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good evening, Lester . There is a whole lot of hope riding on that work that's going on out at the leak site tonight. But in an ironic and disheartening twist for the people of Louisiana , BP says in order to do a better job of containing the oil it must first let more oil -- in fact, a lot more oil -- flow out. Today remotely operated vehicles took off the cap, dramatically increasing the amount of oil gushing into the gulf. This is the first step in a multistage process to install a better-fitting cap, what BP calls a sealing cap, the centerpiece of the oil giant's plan for a new, more effective containment system.

    Mr. KENT WELLS: I think the big way to look at it is over the next four to seven days, depending on how things go, we should get that sealing cap on. That's our plan.

    THOMPSON: During that time, much of the oil will flow unimpeded. Some will be collected and burned off by the Q4000 , and tomorrow BP hopes to get the Helix Producer working, one of three new vessels that will join the Discoverer Enterprise , potentially tripling the 25,000-barrel-a-day collection average of the old system.

    Mr. WELLS: So over the next two weeks or so we'll get to a total of 60 to 80,000 barrels a day of containment.

    THOMPSON: If things go according to plan, the Q4000 will then leave. Until the containment system captures every drop of oil, this is what the gulf

    can expect: instead of whitecaps, oilcaps, waves of crude ruining the water and the coast. On day 82, along a six-mile stretch, we found oil in small pieces three miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River , but no cleanup vessels, a disheartening sight for charter boat captain James Peters .

    Mr. JAMES PETERS: There's nobody, no planes, no nothing. This is dropping the ball, and this is about to just coat the whole coastline.

    THOMPSON: Today Health and Human Services ' Kathleen Sebelius met with the men and women cleaning up the oil on Grand Isle . She defended their 20 minutes on, 40 minutes off work schedule under the scorching Louisiana sun.

    Secretary KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: The last thing we want is that the workers who are in charge of the cleanup then are made sicker by the work that they do, and I think that balance, that occupational safety issue, is really important.

    THOMPSON: Now, the federal government says it is going to monitor the health of those cleanup workers for both the short term and the long term. But I can tell you that for the next week the world's attention will be riveted to the work that's going on 5,000 feet under the sea. Lester :

    HOLT: Anne Thompson tonight, thanks.

Map: Gulf oil spill trajectory

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