Energy company moving Lower 48 office and 200 employees to Denver
BP is moving its Lower 48 regional headquarters to Denver from Houston, putting the massive energy company in a better position to manage about twothirds of its onshore oil and gas properties and to invest further across the Rocky Mountain West.
The company on Wednesday said it has signed a lease for 86,000 square feet of space in the new Riverview building, in the 1700 block of Platte Street, and plans to bring to Denver about 200 of the 450 people who work in its onshore oil and gas production office in Texas — including CEO David Lawler.
The new BP Lower 48 headquarters — which will cover Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming — is expected to open in the first quarter of 2018. Staffing levels could increase as the division makes further investments in oil and gas reserves, including in the San Juan Basin spanning the Colorado-New Mexico state line.
“We believe that the San Juan Basin is one of the world-class basins,” Lawler said in an inter-
view Wednesday. “It has a prolific amount of natural gas. We have a significant presence there. This is a commitment to the San Juan Basin and throughout the Rockies up into Wyoming.”
The new office will put employees within a four- or five-hour drive of BP’s properties.
The Lower 48 operations cover an area roughly the size of New Jersey that includes seven oil and gas basins with about 7.5 billion barrels in the ground and an average of 300,000 barrels being produced a day.
BP says Lower 48 is the largest operator on the Colorado side of the San Juan Basin, with about 1,300 wells. About 30 percent of the unit’s production comes from the San Juan Basin, which contains one of the best coalbed methane reservoirs in the world.
“We felt like this was the appropriate time and the right time to move our teams closer to those assets,” said Lawler, a Denver native and Colorado School of Mines graduate. “We considered other locations, but the primary reason for the move was really the proximity of our major asset base.”
The move is a return to Denver by BP, which called the city “an important energy hub of the future” and cited a pipeline of potential employees flowing from nearby research universities as one of the reasons for the move.
Although many employees will move from Houston, the city is home to BP’s Gulf of Mexico, natural gas, wind and upstream technology groups and remains important to the company’s business, Lawler said. The new Denver hub will give BP Lower 48 three major offices; the third is in Oklahoma City. The company’s San Juan Basin operations are based out of Durango and Farmington, N.M.
“Of course it’s good for Denver and for the energy sector in Denver, livening it up and having bigger names,” said Sarp Ozkan, manager of energy analytics for Drillinginfo. “But in the general context of things, it’s really Denver’s central location that’s providing it a leg up. The Rockies and the Williston Basin, not very active these days with low prices.”
Ozkan said BP probably isn’t looking to drill in the oil-rich Denver-Julesburg Basin of Weld County, where BP Wind Energy built the Cedar Creek II wind farm, but the move could prompt other bigname energy companies to take a look at Denver, Ozkan said.
“The more companies we have here,” he said, “the more vibrant the energy industry gets here.”
Although the oil-price collapse has led to job losses and significant office vacancies downtown, oil and gas remains Denver’s fifthlargest employment segment, according to the Downtown Denver Partnership.
“BP’s selection of downtown Denver to grow its Lower 48 onshore business highlights downtown’s attractiveness for employers looking to access our highly educated workforce and our competitive position within the industry,” the partnership’s CEO Tami Door said, “and we look forward to welcoming BP employees to the center city.”
Denver’s Office of Economic Development said it has been working with BP on the new headquarters for about six weeks. The city offered about $140,000 in incentives, including an employment incentive grant of $100,000 and an estimated $40,000 business personal property tax credit, said Jenna Espinoza, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Hancock.
“With so much of their work happening here in the region, and with all we have to offer for companies and their employees, this is a natural fit that will benefit both BP and Denver for years to come,” Hancock said in a statement.
Gov. John Hickenlooper said BP will be able to tap into Colorado’s thriving energy industry networks, the abundance of top engineering talent and the state’s world-class higher education institutions. “This move reflects Colorado’s emergence as a national energy center, and we look forward to continuing to grow this partnership,” he said in a statement to The Denver Post.