BP names CEO of U.S. onshore business

HOUSTON – BP has tapped David Lawler, a former top executive at an independent oil producer, to lead the U.S. onshore unit it plans to separate early next year.

As CEO of BP’s U.S. lower 48 onshore business, Lawler, 46, will spearhead the London oil company’s efforts to make its unconventional drilling business more flexible and profitable – a challenge in a field of more nimble mid-sized players that beat major oil companies to the U.S. shale revolution.

BP had said in March it would split off its U.S. onshore segment into a new business to compete with  independent producers and the private equity firms that can move more rapidly than Big Oil companies. It’s part of the company’s larger bid to become more profitable by shifting essential funds to the most lucrative plays.

Lawler’s hiring marks one of the first major steps in BP’s efforts to redefine the corporate structure controlling its 7.6 billion barrels of oil and gas resources in the contiguous United States, as well as 5.5 million acres in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas and natural gas-rich regions in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Lawler, who will join BP in September, most recently served as chief operating officer of Oklahoma City’s SandRidge Energy. Prior to that role, he was CEO and president of Oklahoma-based independent PostRock Energy Corp. He also worked for Shell Exploration and Production for a decade. He’s the brother of Doug Lawler, CEO of Oklahoma natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy, who took the reigns last year from one of the first wildcatters to capitalize on the shale boom, Aubrey McClendon.

His skills align with BP’s goals, Lamar McKay, CEO of BP’s upstream segment, said in a written statement.

“I’m confident he will create a competitive and sustainable operation that will be a key component of BP’s portfolio for many years,” McKay said.

The Houston-based business will likely rebrand itself with a new name at some point, John Minge, president of BP America, had said in a meeting with reporters in May.

“We love the resources, we want it in the portfolio, but we want it to have a chance to perform better, so we made this decision in this way to create that,” Minge had said. “It’ll be autonomous to the point that they’re going to live off campus from the energy corridor.”