BP cutting US shale jobs

HOUSTON – BP confirmed on Thursday it has made cuts in its U.S. workforce, but would not say how many jobs will be lost as it carves its shale business into a separate unit.

“We will not comment on specific staffing levels across the business or at individual locations while this transition is underway,” BP spokesman Brett Clanton said in an emailed statement.

Clanton added the cuts are part of sweeping changes expected to make BP’s shale business in the lower 48 states “a stronger, more competitive and sustainable business that will be a key component of BP’s portfolio going forward.”

That onshore operation employs 1,800 contractors and company employees, Clanton said.

The total U.S. workforce is 20,000, according to BP’s website. Its U.S. headquarters is a campus in West Houston.

The London-based oil company said in March it would separate its U.S. onshore oil and gas segment into a more nimble Houston-based unit by next year, an attempt to catch up to smaller rivals that have blazed a trail in the domestic shale energy surge.

Under the plan, a new management team would oversee about 7.6 billion barrels of BP’s oil and gas resources across 5.5 million acres in South Texas’ Eagle Ford and other U.S. shale plays.

It’s not yet clear how many geologists, contractors and support staff the company is planning to let go. Not all of the company’s U.S. employees are in Houston, as BP has field offices around the country.

On Tuesday, BP said it wrote down $521 million on some of its U.S. shale acreage after it decided to abandon its plans to develop operations in the Utica Shale in Ohio.

BP CEO Bob Dudley told investors in a conference call Thursday the company’s stake in the Eagle Ford Shale is producing around 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Thirty-four percent of that is oil.

“We like our Eagle Ford position, we like the relationship we have with our partner there where they do a lot of the surface operations and we do a lot of the subsurface work,” Dudley said.

When asked if BP might write down more shale assets, Chief Financial Officer Brian Gilvary said it’s premature to say.

“But I think we’ve made it very clear that we don’t intend to proceed with where we are today,” he said.