The only misgiving I've ever had about Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN ) is about the firm's geographic overstretch. For that reason, I'm happy to see it shed its non-core assets. Last week, Devon announced plans to leave some oil sands lands in others' hands.
But wait: With everyone from Statoil (NYSE: STO ) to Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO ) to PetroChina's (NYSE: PTR ) parent China National Petroleum Corporation bum-rushing the bitumen, why would Devon give up its McMullen acreage?
The answer is because it has its hands full with Jackfish, an oil sands project that uses in-situ extraction. This process involves heating and pumping hard bitumen straight out of the ground, rather than by open-pit excavation. The roughly 100,000-acre land package Devon is looking to divest constitutes less than one-tenth of the firm's oil sands position.
I'm glad to see Devon honing its focus this way. I'm equally curious about who will be looking to pick up the acreage. Everyone seems busy prognosticating the Fed's interest rate cut move tomorrow, so I'm putting on my swami cap and divining two contenders who are most likely to scoop up the McMullen land.
Nexen (NYSE: NXY ) is a very large Canadian operator you may not be familiar with. It has an outsized oil sands position -- 5.5 billion barrels -- but it's hungry for more. With the Long Lake project starting up this quarter, I suspect the company is on the prowl for the next big target.
There's also Eni (NYSE: E ) , an immense Italian firm that in recent memory has borne the brunt of Nigerian nastiness, Chavez chicanery, and Borat-style bullying. Eni's CEO stated recently that the firm may look to pick up oil sands assets, and who can blame it? After all those jarring episodes, the Athabasca Oil Sands must look like Utopia.