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Vol. 24, No.40 Week of October 06, 2019
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Wulff takes top position

Veteran leader of Oil Search Peter Botten retiring, Alaska president taking his place

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

After serving as Oil Search’s managing director for 25 years, Peter Botten is retiring and Keiran Wulff, president of Oil Search Alaska, is taking his place.

In an interview with Petroleum News, Wulff said Bruce Dingeman, currently chief operating officer of the Alaska business unit, will take over his role as president, and Matt Elmer, senior vice president of production and operations, will assume the role of acting COO.

Wulff estimates that after the transition to his new position is complete, he will be spending about 20% of his time in Alaska.

What do the changes mean for the state?

“Alaska has a champion at the very top of the company,” was Wulff’s response, noting the leadership change has been internally progressing for about two years.

To ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities Wulff was appointed chief executive officer designate on Sept. 30. He will retain his Alaska responsibilities until mid-December to help oversee the company’s entry into front-end engineering and design for the North Slope Pikka development, while also engaging with stakeholders and being involved in budget and planning for 2020 and beyond.

“The transition is a very measured … well thought out … process. Nothing has been rushed,” he said.

“We have three fantastic projects we have to develop, including Alaska, and the beauty of it is we have the time to do so in an economically sound and environmentally sensitive manner,” Wulff said.

He will move from Anchorage to Sydney in mid-December, assuming his role as managing director and joining the Oil Search board on Feb. 25.

Directed company’s growth

Botten, whose retirement was flagged at the May annual meeting, is one of the longest-serving CEOs in the ASX 200.

He will continue to be employed by Oil Search until Aug 25, focusing primarily on the LNG expansion projects, as well as assist in other matters as required.

Botten said he felt privileged to have led Oil Search for 25 years.

“Over that time, the company has grown from a small exploration player … to a regionally significant operator, with world class producing assets in PNG and outstanding development opportunities in both PNG and Alaska,” he said, noting that during his tenure Oil Search expanded from 12 to approximately 1,700 employees.

Alaska team, ConocoPhillips rapport

Wulff, a geologist with a Ph.D., spoke highly of the Alaska leadership team, mentioning individuals by name and offering background on most of them.

For example, when talking about Oil Search Alaska’s vice president of exploration and new ventures and former geoscientist with the state, Wulff said “there is no doubt Joe Chmielowski is very knowledgeable and has a deep understanding of the geology of the North Slope, but Joe is also genuinely a good person. … a great leader … someone who empowers his staff.”

Currently the Oil Search Alaska group numbers 151 - 36 contractors and 115 employees.

The Alaska leadership team, which has several people with extensive North Slope experience, Wulff said, includes Dingeman, Elmer, Senior Vice President External Affairs Joe Balash, Executive Advisor Cindy Bailey, Vice President Commercial and Strategy Patrick Flood, Vice President Exploration and New Ventures Josef (Joe) Chmielowski, Vice President People and Culture Wanda Lewis, Vice President Finance and Project Services Jonathan Boyce, Senior Vice President Projects Bob Writt, Vice President Supply Chain and Ops Support Lea Souliotis, Senior Vice President Drilling and Completions Steve Robinson, Senior Vice President HSES James Robinson, Senior Vice President Subsurface Mark Ireland and IT and Data Management Manager Stephanie Kreibich.

When asked whether his experience as a Phillips Petroleum employee in the early years of his career had anything to do with his success in building a good relationship with North Slope neighbor ConocoPhillips, Wulff said no.

“Our playmates elsewhere are the majors, so I think it’s more a matter of we were taken seriously” by the bigger company, he said, making the relationship easier to establish.

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