Shell Partners Could Acquire Mackenzie Stake

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Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company, may not have an easy time finding a buyer for its 11.4% in the $17 billion Mackenzie Gas Project, a Canadian pipeline project, making the Anglo-Dutch oil giant's partners in the project logical buyers, analysts said on Monday, just days after Shell announced plans to sell the stake.

Mackenzie was designed to bring natural gas from Canada's Arctic coast to North American markets. The project was originally proposed four decades ago, but only gained regulatory approval in 2010. Shell's partners on the project include ConocoPhillips (COP), the third largest U.S. oil company, and Imperial Oil (IMO).

Imperial is controlled by Exxon Mobil (XOM), the largest U.S. oil company. Shell's (RDS-A) departure from Mackenzie is seen as jeopardizing an already vulnerable project. Conoco and Imperial have not fully committed to Mackenzie, which is not scheduled to begin delivering natural gas until 2018.

ConocoPhillips, which is in the midst of planning to split into two companies, is seen as an unlikely bidder for Shell's stake, but analysts said it would make sense for Imperial to acquire the Shell interest, Reuters reported. Shell said the decision to sell its stake was part of its normal review of its assets.