Why is BP moving onshore headquarters to Denver? Think natural gas

Dave Lawler
Dave Lawler

The oil and gas industry sometimes feels more like an oil industry these days, with the big independent explorers staying far away from dry gas fields.

Then comes BP’s Lower 48 chief, David Lawler, saying on Wednesday that the company is bullish for the rich accumulation of gas around Denver and the Rockies.

“We think natural gas will be an important fuel for us for the foreseeable future,” Lawler told me while explaining his division’s move from Houston to Denver.

BP produces a lot of oil. It operates huge fields in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and overseas. But Lawler’s division drills for a lot of gas. BP has 6 million net acres in the contiguous U.S. and operates 10,000 wells. But of its 7.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas estimated last year, the company said in a recent report that 1.2 billion barrels were liquids, the rest gas.

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BP expects natural gas demand to grow sharply in coming years. Coal plants are retiring. Power plants need cheap fuel. And the company sees a growing global market for Liquified Natural Gas exports.

Add to all of that the world’s push toward lower carbon fuel sources.

When Lawler came to BP in 2014 from the Oklahoma City E&P company Sandridge Energy, one of his first jobs was to evaluate the state of BP’s acreage. “The resources we have are so vast, we’re in the early stages of analyzing what we have,” Lawler said on Wednesday.

He likes what he’s seen so far. It is gas-heavy land.

But given the rest of BP’s global portfolio, Lawler thinks gas is pretty good.