BP puts San Juan Basin gas wells on auction block

HOUSTON – BP is trying to hawk thousands of aging natural gas wells in New Mexico as it trims some assets before the launch of its U.S. oil and gas business.

By the end of the year, it wants to unload 6,600 gas wells that pump about 157,000 cubic feet of natural gas a day in the San Juan Basin, a spokesman said Sunday. Two-thirds of the wells, which fall across 2,500 square miles in northwest New Mexico, are not operated by BP.

It’s also selling its 50-percent stake in a ConocoPhillips plant that pulls natural gas liquids out of gas gathered in New Mexico. BP didn’t say how much money it expects to get from the assets sales, but said it hopes to complete the sales by the end of the year. It also said it would still have some operations in the San Juan Basin after the sale.

“The decision is in line with BP’s strategy of focusing its portfolio, activity and investment on key assets with options for future growth and divesting those worth more to others,” BP spokesman Brett Clanton said in an emailed statement. “This part of the field is mature and better-suited for a company that specializes in late-life basin operations.”

The sales would follow a similar deal that BP struck last month when it sold off hundreds of natural gas wells in the Texas Panhandle for $390 million. They’re both signals that even as BP prepares for the 2015 start up of its U.S. lower 48 onshore business, it’ll keep pruning its American oil and gas portfolio as it tries to cut $10 billion in assets through next year.

BP is creating a separate U.S. onshore unit to make it more competitive with independent producers that  largely have taken the lead in the U.S. shale revolution. The London oil company said last week it hired David Lawler, a former top executive at SandRidge Energy, to lead the unit.

BP shares rose 42 cents Monday to $48.55 on the New York Stock Exchange.