ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The chief executive of Phillips Petroleum Co., which announced Wednesday it is buying the Alaska assets of Atlantic Richfield Co., says his company is interested in running the Prudhoe Bay field solo.
BP Amoco and Arco now operate the field jointly.
When BP's proposed $28 billion takeover of Los Angeles-based Arco was announced almost a year ago, BP contemplated efficiency savings of about $200 million a year in Alaska by combining the companies. Much of that savings would have come from fusing Prudhoe operations.
In a private address to Arco employees Wednesday at the Arco offices in downtown Anchorage, Phillips chief executive Jim Mulva revived the single-operator idea by saying his company would be interested in assuming sole management of Prudhoe.
''Over time, we see that it makes more sense to have one operator for Prudhoe. But that is a conversation for another day,'' Mulva said.
For now, he said, the focus is on wrapping up the BP-Arco-Phillips deal.
Prudhoe is the continent's largest oil field, by far. Right now BP and Arco split the operation of the field -- BP, with a 51 percent ownership stake, runs the west side, while Arco, with a 22 percent share, runs the east.
The field so far has produced close to 11 billion barrels of oil, and current production of about 550,000 barrels per day is only about a third of its peak 12 years ago. Still, Prudhoe pumps 5 percent of total U.S. oil consumption.
Arco and BP over the years have come to share many functions at Prudhoe even though they produce oil from separate halves of the field. How Phillips will fit in remains to be seen, though Mulva vowed to make the Arco asset purchase as ''seamless'' as possible.
Alaska, which initially had worries about BP's taking over the state's only other major oil player, probably would have no problem with a single Prudhoe Bay owner, said Alaska Attorney General Bruce Botelho.
''Our antitrust focus has been primarily aimed at future North Slope bidding, leasing and development,'' Botelho said. Once a field is discovered, it makes sense to run it as cheaply as possible and a single operator at Prudhoe would lower costs and ultimately boost oil production, he said.
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