ANCHORAGE (AP) -- BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. will no longer manage its more speculative Alaska oil exploration from Anchorage, moving the responsibility for those drilling decisions to Houston.
The move affects 30 to 35 BP workers in Alaska, but the company says it will try to find jobs for them in Alaska or elsewhere in BP.
''I think it's fair to say we are changing the way we are managing exploration in Alaska,'' said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell. ''The personnel who develop frontier exploration strategy for Alaska will be in Houston.'' Frontier exploration is drilling that's not in or near existing fields.
Steve Marshall, president of BP Exploration (Alaska), told employees in a Nov. 16 e-mail obtained by Petroleum News Alaska that the company's focus in Alaska would be on prospects adjacent to existing fields -- oil pools that can be produced through existing facilities, lowering development costs and shortening the time between exploration and production.
''The North American Exploration Business Unit out of Houston will manage future frontier exploration strategy in Alaska,'' Marshall wrote. A small exploration team in Alaska will focus on satellite or in-field drilling.
Marshall told employees that the company ''will work to minimize the impact of this change in focus by finding jobs for as many BP staff as possible within Alaska or elsewhere in BP.''
The ''new and more focused Alaska strategy'' is being developed, Marshall said, ''to create a long and sustainable future for our company on the North Slope.
''We must spend and invest wisely. That means extending the life of existing infrastructure by improving the way we maintain our production facilities and investing in system upgrades when necessary. Next year, it means investing more than $700 million in existing fields, on satellite field development and on facility upgrades and tanker construction. It means continuing support for the effort to move North Slope natural gas to market.''
Chappell said BP expects to increase net production from Alaska by 10 percent next year, with much of that coming from the new Northstar field. But the company is drilling just one well on the North Slope this winter, although it is participating in several others being drilled by partner companies.
Changes in management agreements that gave BP control over operations across the Prudhoe Bay field have reduced costs, Marshall said. ''As a result, our Alaska business is in better shape today than it was 2 years ago,'' he wrote.
The company's goal, he said, ''is to convert BP's huge North Slope resource base of more than 7 billion barrels of oil equivalent into 30 or 40 years of production by managing our costs and investing wisely.''
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