HOUSTON — ConocoPhillips will stop searching for oil and gas in deepwater fields by 2017, and it plans to sell the offshore leases it does not intend to drill, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.
Its exit from deepwater exploration would free up roughly $800 million in capital, the amount it has budgeted for exploration next year. Plus, it will save on costs on that side of the business, Matt Fox, ConocoPhillips’ executive vice president of exploration and production told an investors meeting in late October.
The decision is part of the company’s plan to sell $1 to $2 billion assets a year as it braces for lower oil prices. The Houston company has about 2.2 million acres and three recent discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico. “It’s a strategic decision to exit deepwater exploration,” Fox was quoted to say. He added that the company’s decision on whether to develop the discoveries “is quite some ways off.”
“We may choose to stay with those developments but we may choose to exit before development happens,” Fox said. He also clarified the company’s deepwater policy: “We haven’t made a commitment to exit deepwater, per se, but deepwater exploration,” he explained.
ConocoPhillips had said this summer that it would scale back on exploration spending, cutting its exploration spending to $1.8 billion of its estimated $11.5 billion budget.
ConocoPhillips lost about $1.1 billion in 3Q 2015 as it took impairments and restructuring charges and paid a penalty for terminating a contract for a Gulf of Mexico deepwater rig.
The company will cut some $1.3 billion from its capital budget guidance this year to $10.2 billion, and compress its operating costs by another $1 billion to $8.2 billion as it braces for a long downturn.