ConocoPhillips to cut about 100 jobs in Alaska

ConocoPhillips Alaska said Monday that close to 100 of its Alaska employees will either be laid off or accept voluntary severances.

Somewhere around 95 of the company’s 1,100-member workforce in Alaska will be impacted, according to an email from Natalie Lowman, a spokeswoman with ConocoPhillips, the state’s largest oil producer.

“Affected employees will receive severance, outplacement services, and other benefits offered under existing (human resources) policies,” Lowman said.

The decision was related to the company’s $9.7 billion acquisition of Texas oil and gas company Concho Resources, according to Lowman.

“This past year has emphasized the need for our company to stay focused on cost and become more efficient in what we do,” Lowman said. “With the acquisition of Concho Resources, we have revisited our overall structure and that has resulted in job losses company-wide.”

Lowman said the workforce reduction is unrelated to recent court decisions.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Saturday halted winter work at ConocoPhillips’ large oil prospect in northern Alaska, the Willow field in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The halting of that work will affect 120 ConocoPhillips employees and contractors, the company has said.

Alaska’s oil industry has had a tumultuous year. Oil giant BP’s exit from the state following the sale of its Alaska assets to Hilcorp resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant some North Slope projects temporarily ground to a halt. Most recently, there was the court ruling stopping work on ConocoPhillips’ Willow project and a new, less oil-friendly presidential administration taking charge, impacting oil and gas lease sales and delaying at least one project.

Oil prices have plunged and then steadily recovered during the nearly yearlong COVID-19 pandemic, but jobs in the oil industry have not recovered.

Pre-pandemic, early last year, the state counted about 10,000 oil and gas jobs. In December, the job count was 6,800.

The jobs that ConocoPhillips is cutting may be some of the best in Alaska’s oil patch, since large oil producers typically pay more than smaller oil companies or support companies.

”Those are a loss of quality jobs that are year-round, and in some cases, have been around for a while,” said Neal Fried, an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

But the cuts are relatively small compared to the losses the state has already faced, Fried said. The sale of BP’s Alaska assets to Hilcorp involved many more employees, he said.

Lowman said she did not have information on how many of the impacted employees are Alaska residents, or how many of the positions being cut are jobs on the North Slope versus jobs in Anchorage. Alaska residents make up about 85% of ConocoPhillips Alaska’s workforce, she said.

“The announcements began today,” Lowman said. “Workforce changes like this are always difficult, but we care about every employee affected and will assist them with out-placement services and other associated benefits.”