Mr Ratcliffe’s company Ineos and ConocoPhillips reportedly confirmed last night that they are in exclusive talks for the American firm’s 6.5 per cent stake in the Clair field, 46 miles west of Shetland.
The field potentially has seven billion barrels of oil, according to BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley. ConocoPhillips said the field produces around 21,000 barrels a day.
According to the Sunday Times, Ineos paid a deposit in exchange for three months of exclusive talks with ConocoPhillips. Reports suggest that the assets it is selling are potentially worth up to £2.3 billion. They do not include the company’s oil terminal on Teesside or its commercial trading group in London.
The purchase would significantly increase Mr Ratcliffe’s North Sea portfolio; the Clair field buy comes after Ineos bought various North Sea gas fields in 2015.
Last year the firm bought Denmark’s Dong Energy for £1bn.
Ratcliffe, 65, is the UK’s richest man, with a fortune of £21bn.
Ineos owns the Grangemouth refinery which manufactures a range of petrochemicals that are used in a variety of products, including bottles and food packaging, and in the pharmaceuticals industry.
The North Sea is still a relatively new area for Mr Ratcliffe and Ineos.