UPDATE 1-Shell sells three onshore Nigeria oil blocks
LAGOS, June 15 (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell's Nigeria operation is working on selling three oil blocks in its latest move to divest some onshore assets, a spokesman said on Friday.
Shell has been winding down some of its onshore operations to focus on offshore and deepwater drilling. The sales follow similar divestments over the past two years.
The Nigerian government, which is trying to increase ownership of oil blocks by local companies, has encouraged such deals.
"SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Corporation) is working towards the potential divestment of OMLs 30, 34 and 40," spokesman Tony Okonedo said by telephone.
He declined to comment on any negotiations or whether an offer had already been made for them.
Shell's onshore facilities are plagued with problems such as militancy and rampant oil theft, but Okonedo insisted there was no link between this and the divestments.
"We will continue to look at opportunities to rationalise our portfolio," he said. "This is not Shell leaving Nigeria but rather a refocusing aimed at strengthening our long-term position in country."
Last year Shell sold its 30 percent stake in Nigerian onshore oil block OML 42 to local consortium Neconde Energy, which includes Nestoil Group, Aries E&P Company Limited, VP Global and Poland's Kulczyk Oil Ventures, for $390 million.
The Anglo-Dutch major also divested its 30 percent stake in block OML 26 to First Hydrocarbon Nigeria (FHN), which is part-owned by Afren, for $98 million in the same year.
In 2010 it assigned three blocks, OML 4, 38 and 41, to Seplat Petroleum, Okonedo said.