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BP Targeting Jump in GOM Production by 50% Within Two Years

With a record 10 drilling rigs now working the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM), BP plc is taking aim at increasing output by one-half over the next two years, to 300,000 boe/d from the current 200,000 boe/d, CEO Bob Dudley said Tuesday.

Dudley, who spoke with analysts during a conference call to discuss quarterly and year-end results, declined to put a date on when production would increase by the forecasted number, but he said it's coming. It just depends on how long three planned turnarounds take.

"Clearly, it's getting back to work in the Gulf of Mexico for us with 10 rigs running," said the CEO. "We're not giving the exact figures, but we did produce more than 200,000 b/d during the quarter and had an exit rate as well 200,000 in the fourth quarter. So we've got that [and] we've got improved natural gas prices as well that have affected the industry..."

This year the Na Kika platform is scheduled to begin operations; the Mars B, operated by Royal Dutch Shell plc, went online in late January (see related story). The Gila exploration well also is progressing. Everything is falling in line, said Dudley.

U.S. offshore investments over the next 10 years are to be focused on Thunder Horse, Na Kika, Atlantis and Mad Dog -- BP's four operated hubs (see Daily GPI, Nov. 19, 2013). Mars, Ursa and Great White, hubs that BP holds stakes in, also will have more investments, with other exploratory success expected to add to the mix, along with funds for three hubs in which it holds stakes: Mars, Ursa and Great White.

One solid sign that BP's exploration efforts worldwide are proving successful: the reserve replacement ratio for 2013 was 129%, sales. Including the net reserves growth from its repositioning in Russia, the reserves replacement ratio was 199%.

"I believe this result is a strong indicator of the growing short-term and long-term momentum in our business as we pull-through the drivers of long-term growth," said Dudley.

CFO Brian Gilvary said the GOM is proving to be a "big positive" for BP, with "lower oil realizations versus higher gas realizations." The offshore is a "big driver, and as more barrels come on with the lower production taxes, hence you will start to see numbers move."

BP is "very optimistic about where we're heading in the Gulf with those four big hubs," said Dudley. "Roughly 80% of our reserve base that we have is in the...resource base around in the Gulf is around those four big hubs. So, obviously, a great area of focus for us."

The London-based major still faces uncertainty around the tragic Macondo well blowout in 2010. It charged $119 million in 4Q2013 for the oil spill, reflecting an increase in the provision for legal costs, plus the ongoing costs of running the Gulf Coast restoration organization, Gilvary said. "This brings the full-year charge to $470 million. The total cumulative net charge for the incident to date is now $42.7 billion. The charge does not include any provision for business economic loss claims that are yet to be paid."

The cumulative amount estimated to be paid from the trust fund remained at $19.3 billion at the end of 2013, which left unallocated headroom available in the trust for further expenditures of around $700 million, said the CFO. "In the event that the headroom is fully utilized, subsequent additional costs will be charged to the income statement." BP still has a cash balance in the Macondo trust of around $6.7 billion, with $20 million paid in and $13.3 billion paid out over previous quarters.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who has been conducting an independent investigation of the claims process on BP's behalf, recently issued his second written report. "We are also continuing to work toward an administrative agreement to resolve these issues," Dudley said. "Importantly, we continue to compartmentalize these activities to avoid distraction...and BP's operating teams remain clearly focused on delivering our strategy."

Similar to other oil majors that already have reported depressed quarterly and full-year 2013 results, BP's quarterly profits fell 27% from a year ago, to $1.51 billion (48 cents/share) from $2.01 billion (63 cents). Earnings also were 24% lower sequentially. BP, like many European-based majors, used replacement cost profits as a mirror of U.S. standards for net profits. Profits for 2013 jumped to $23.68 billion, more than double 2012, mostly on the transaction last year that handed BP a share of Russia's OAO Rosneft. Operating cash flow in the final quarter was $5.4 billion; it was $21.1 billion for 2013. Revenue fell by 4.7% to $95.1 billion in the final period.

The slimming down since Macondo has created a smaller company with fewer profits and lighter production, Dudley said. In addition to the asset sales, BP since late 2010 has taken more than $42 billion in writedowns related to Macondo legal settlements and cleanup costs. The operator to date has completed $38 billion in asset sales and still plans to sell another $10 billion worth through 2015.

This year capital expenditures are expected to be flat with 2013 at $24-25 billion. Beyond this year and to 2020, capital spending is set at $24-27 million.

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