Cazalot added about the company's exploration and production strategy, "Over the past five years, we have executed sales with approximately $3.5 billion in transaction value. We continue the ongoing review of our global portfolio with a goal of an additional $1.5 billion to $3 billion in divestitures over the next two to three years." Overall, Marathon, a former piece of Rockefeller's Standard Oil founded in the 19th century, now expects oil & gas production to grow by 5% in 2012, with onshore oil production like shale drilling driving growth.

Recent merger activity like Statoil's $4.4 billion purchase of Brigham Exploration ( BEXP) to own its drilling operations in shale formations are called the Bakken and Three Forks shale in the Williston Basin of North Dakota and Montana indicates of how oil players are starting to focus on regional shale drilling opportunities.

It is yet to be seen whether Marathon would dispose of the $3 billion in shale assets in a sale to another player or in a spin via a master limited partnership. In October, Quicksilver Resources ( KWK) shares fell sharply on an announcement of a MLF spin of its shale assets.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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