It recently appeared that, given a travesty clearly created by the company in the Gulf of Mexico, BP (NYSE: BP) was rapidly becoming an outcast among the other major oil companies.

But it now looks as if, when opportunity to make money knocks, relationships between the company -- which has made both a physical and political disaster of the Gulf -- and its peers may not have fully disintegrated. Indeed, just 10 days after The Wall Street Journal carried an article indicating that BP and Chevron (NYSE: CVX) were on the outs, it appears that the two companies may be making the most of a chance to work together again.

Specifically, the pair is bidding together for the rights to jointly explore a deepwater block in the South China Sea. Under the terms of the process, CNOOC (NYSE: CEO), China's biggest offshore operator, would be able to take 51% of the block if there's a substantial petrochemical discovery. It appears that Devon (NYSE: DVN), which sold the majority of its Gulf assets to BP, has singled out BP and Chevron as the preferred buyers of the assets, where water depths range from 650 to 6,500 feet. Chevron would take a 60% interest as operator, with the other 40% going to BP.

All this is occurring during continued failed attempts to stem the gushing of oil from a blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico. Last week, when called before Congress to address the Gulf disaster, executives of several major companies, including ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), Shell (NYSE: RDS-A), and Chevron, distanced themselves from BP and its methods.

The spill also resulted in the Obama administration declaring a six-month moratorium on Gulf drilling below 500 feet. On Tuesday, however, following a lawsuit from Hornbeck Offshore (NYSE: HOS), U.S. Federal Judge Martin Feldman issued a preliminary injunction halting the ban. And on Thursday he turned down an administration request for a stay of the injunction, which would have kept the drilling ban alive while the administration and the companies proceed through the courts.

As I've said before, with all that's going on in offshore oil -- now including action in relatively unexplored areas like the South China Sea -- my inclination is to stick closely to ExxonMobil and services behemoth Schlumberger for their size, diversity, and solid track records.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in the article. He solicits your questions, comments, and golf tips. CNOOC is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. The Fool owns shares of Devon Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.