Oil companies trim here, expand there

The drum beat grows louder of oil and gas firms cutting back on their spending, but there are a few caveats.

conocoalpinegreenmile A ConocoPhillips worker walks down the Green Mile at the Alpine oil field on the North Slope of Alaska, where it is not planning any new wells in 2010. (Kevin Fujii/Chronicle)

Marathon Oil said it will cut capex by more than 15 percent, from $6 billion to $5 billion.
And BP and ConocoPhillips say they’re scaling back on Alaska’s North Slope. BP will cut its North Slope budget by 15 percent, to $850 million, but will still plan to work on its new $1.5 billion Liberty oil field in the Beaufort Sea.
And Conoco is planning to drill no new exploration wells for the first time in 45 years. But that doesn’t mean they’re standing still :

“Instead, [ConocoPhillips] plans to focus its spending on developing its Chukchi Sea leases and making improvements at the two big oil fields it runs, Kuparuk and Alpine, said Helene Harding, vice president of North Slope operations and development.
“We’re shifting our focus offshore,” she said. Conoco spent more than $500 million last year to obtain its Chukchi leases in federal waters. It is now working on offshore development studies with Shell, which spent $2.1 billion to acquire leases during the same lease sale. Shell hopes to begin drilling on its leases next year.”

The willingness to commit to offshore exploration in Alaska is an interesting move, given all the hassles Shell has faced there in the last few year.
Exxon Mobil, meanwhile, says it is “100 percent” behind developing new wells at Point Thomson on the North Slope, with plans to hire 600 workers for construction at the field 60 miles East of Prudhoe Bay.