(Bloomberg) -- Chesapeake Energy Corp. is considering an acquisition of rival natural gas producer Southwestern Energy Co., according to people familiar with the matter. 

Chesapeake has held on-and-off discussions with Southwestern for months about a potential combination, said one of the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. No final decision has been made, and Chesapeake could opt against pursuing a deal, the people said. 

A representative for Chesapeake declined to comment while a representative for Southwestern didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the potential deal, which was first reported on by Reuters. 

Southwestern rose 8.3% to close at $7.32 in New York trading Tuesday, giving it a market value of about $8.1 billion. Chesapeake rose 0.7% to $89.59, giving it a market value of about $12 billion. 

The potential tie-up comes as US oil and gas producers increasingly seek to pair up to add scale and cut costs. Exxon Mobil Corp. agreed this month to pay about $60 billion for Pioneer Natural Resources Co. in the largest deal of the year. 

Chesapeake and Southwestern are two of the biggest players in Appalachia, a giant shale gas formation in the Northeastern US. They also operate in the Haynesville, another gassy basin in Louisiana along the Texas border. 

Chesapeake and late co-founder Aubrey McClendon were pioneers of the modern fracking industry, developing a lot of the business and drilling practices that defined the natural gas boom of the 2000s. 

--With assistance from Mitchell Ferman.

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