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CEO of BHP Billiton Andrew Mackenzie. Image courtesy of BHP Billiton.

Mining and energy giant BHP Billiton has exited its 20 percent stake in the $6 billion Hess-operated Stampede project that won the go ahead to start development last week.

The Anglo-Australian player quietly sold off its stake in the U.S. Gulf project in April, Bloomberg said.

Deutsche Bank valued the stake at $450 million.

BHP has not disclosed how much they sold the stake for or who purchased it.

“We decided not to proceed with the Stampede development project as we are focused on the higher-return opportunities within our portfolio,” BHP said.

Deutesche Bank said the sale was probably made to cut capital expenditure growth “with value now being sacrificed to maximize free cash flow.”

BHP held its interest in the project since the Stampede discovery well was first drilled in 2005.

Chevron, Norway’s Statoil, Hess and Japan’s Nexen now each hold a 25 percent stake.

Stampede, a deepwater subsea development, will have a capacity of 80,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Drilling is projected to start in the fourth quarter 2015 with first production expected in 2018.

Six production wells and four water injections wells are currently being planned.

The facility will be tied-back to a newly constructed Tension Leg Platform.

The Stampede field has total estimated recoverable resources in excess of 300 million barrels of oil equivalent.