(Bloomberg) -- Devon Energy Corp., an Oklahoma City-based oil and gas company, is studying major acquisition targets as it seeks to gain scale in US shale, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Devon has held preliminary talks in recent months about a combination with Marathon Oil Corp., said the people who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. The companies are complementary because both operate in a handful of basins in the Midwestern US, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Marathon has a market value of about $17.5 billion. 

Separately, Devon has been looking at CrownRock LP, a closely held company active in the Permian Basin, the biggest and most productive oil field in the US, the people said. CrownRock has been for sale and could fetch more than $10 billion, the people said. 

No final decision has been made and Devon could opt against pursuing either target, the people added. 

Devon rose 0.3% to close at $50.08 in New York trading Wednesday, giving the company a market value of about $32 billion. The stock has fallen about 19% this year. Marathon rose as much as 4.6% in post-market trading while Devon fell as much as 2.8%. 

Representatives for Devon and Marathon declined to comment, while a representative for CrownRock didn’t respond to requests for comment. Reuters reported last month that CrownRock was preparing to explore a sale. 

Devon’s merger ambitions underscore how US shale is ripe for a consolidation wave as companies seek to boost drilling inventory and cut costs. Investors are eager to see mergers too, as explorers can save money by pairing up and assembling contiguous drilling positions. 

Chesapeake Energy Corp. is considering an acquisition of rival natural gas producer Southwestern Energy Co., Bloomberg News reported this week, while Exxon Mobil Corp. agreed this month to pay about $60 billion for Pioneer Natural Resources Co. in the largest deal of the year. 

Devon is one of the biggest independent shale explorers in the US, with operations in five US basins, led by its presence in the Permian. Either Marathon Oil or CrownRock would be Devon’s largest deal since its $2.6 billion takeover in 2021 of WPX Energy. 

(Updates trading in fifth paragraph.)

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