Chevron sells Cook Inlet assets to Texas-based independent

Properties expected to change hands by end of year.

July 19, 2011 

Chevron, the biggest oil and gas operator in Cook Inlet, is selling its assets there to an independent company, Hilcorp Alaska LLC.

Chevron and Hilcorp announced Tuesday that Chevron's subsidiary, Union Oil Co. of California, is selling contracts and interests in the Granite Point, Middle Ground Shoals, Trading Bay and MacArthur River fields.

The sale to Hilcorp also covers Chevron's interests in 10 offshore platforms, onshore gas fields, two gas storage facilities and two pipeline companies.

Terms were not disclosed. The companies said the deal should close by the end of the year, after it clears regulatory steps. Chevron plans to maintain its interests in Alaska's North Slope fields and the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

The current net production for Chevron in Cook Inlet is 3,900 barrels of oil and 85 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, the company said.

A state senator from Kenai said the changeover should be good for Cook Inlet production. An environmentalist said he wanted to look into whether the new player has the will and the ability to invest in Cook Inlet's crumbling infrastructure.

Hilcorp is one of the biggest privately held oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the United States, but it is dwarfed by big producers like Exxon Mobil, BP and Conoco Phillips.

"The standard pattern is the majors come in and pick the low-hanging fruit, and then the independents and juniors come in and mop up," said Bob Shavelson, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Cook Inletkeeper. "The biggest question is: Do they have the assets to deal with aging infrastructure in Cook Inlet?"

Some of the platforms date back to the post-statehood era of the late 1960s, and there are serious maintenance and corrosion issues, Shavelson said.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, said he didn't think Hilcorp would be making the deal if it wasn't ready to invest.

"They have looked at the assets. They know what's here in Cook Inlet," said Wagoner, who got a call from Hilcorp about the sale Tuesday.

Hilcorp may be better situated for upgrading and expanding than Chevron, which has numerous projects around the world competing for its investment dollars, the senator said.

Hilcorp, headquartered in Houston, Texas, operates in nine areas including the Gulf Coast and the Rockies. It has more than 700 employees and is actively growing. It's been recognized for a progressive corporate culture. Last year, the Houston Chronicle ranked Hilcorp the No. 1 midsize workplace.

Wagoner said he hopes Cook Inlet workers hold onto their jobs.

"Those are the people I worry about," Wagoner said. "Those platforms -- those are a lot of jobs in Cook Inlet. Most of those people are my neighbors."

The Hilcorp acquisition comes after the federal government announced there's far more oil and natural gas in Cook Inlet than previously thought.


Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.

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