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BP plans to sell part of its stake in Australian oil venture

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BP Plc plans to sell part of its oil project off southern Australia, before an exploration campaign that's slated to start late next year at a cost of more than A$1 billion (US$800 million).

[SYDNEY] BP Plc plans to sell part of its oil project off southern Australia, before an exploration campaign that's slated to start late next year at a cost of more than A$1 billion (US$800 million).

BP wants to cut its stake to between 40 per cent and 50 per cent from 70 per cent, with the sales process starting in the second half this year, Bryan Ritchie, vice president of exploration for Asia Pacific, told reporters Tuesday in Melbourne. Statoil ASA owns the rest of the project in the Great Australian Bight.

"We've had a number of companies speaking to us, and hopefully some of the companies will see the potential we see," he said. "There's a big opportunity there."

The UK energy giant is planning to drill in a region it has described as "the last big unexplored basin in the whole world." It faces opposition from environmentalists worried about the potential for an accident five years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

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BP is also looking for opportunities to work with other companies exploring in the Bight to potentially save money and make their operations more efficient, he said.

Chevron Corp and Santos Ltd are among other companies with holdings in the region.

The company plans to start drilling in October 2016, Ritchie said earlier in a speech at the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association conference. BP expects to drill a second well and pause before proceeding with another two wells, he said.

Although exploration budgets are "tight" across the industry, BP is committed to the programme in the Bight, he said.

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