Corporate moves: EPL Oil & Gas, Southwestern Energy move headquarters

Houston’s energy scene is getting a bit bigger.

EPL Oil & Gas Inc. announced Wednesday the company has moved its corporate headquarters to downtown Houston from New Orleans.

And Southwestern Energy, which moved to Houston from Fayetteville, Ark., a dozen years ago, broke ground this week on a 25.6 acre development for a new corporate headquarters just south of The Woodlands.

The project will allow Southwestern to consolidate Houston employees into one space, rather than five buildings scattered across the area.

EPL Oil & Gas will keep its accounting and production teams in New Orleans but will focus geoscience and engineering operations in Houston.

Gary C. Hanna, chairman, president and CEO of EPL Oil & Gas, said the decision to move the corporate headquarters to Houston was a natural transition.

The company, which operates in shallow water in the central Gulf of Mexico, has had a small office for its science staff here for several years.

That staff has almost tripled over the past two years to keep up with EPL’s growing production, Hanna said.

“We made a conscious decision to grow our science staff here in Houston because of the talent pool,” he said. “We couldn’t grow and find these kind of people in New Orleans.”

Houston also gives the company access to energy-focused banks and working partners, said T.J. Thom, senior vice president and chief financial officer for the company.

EPL previously focused on natural gas production but switched to oil when Hanna was hired in 2009. He said oil now accounts for about 80 percent of the company’s production and 95 percent of its revenues.

Southwestern’s expansion reflects the growth of the natural gas producer since its move to Houston. Spokeswoman Susan Richardson said the company has about 1,000 employees in Houston, more than 1,000 in Arkansas and about 125 in Pennsylvania.

It’s part of a group of energy companies expanding and adding new buildings, often on the west or northern edges of the city.

The company said it will seek LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the new building.

Steve Mueller, president and CEO of Southwestern, said the new facility will be designed to allow greater collaboration.

Completion is set for late 2014.