Houston’s ConocoPhillips, which is poised to become the largest pure-play independent in North America once it spins off its refining unit, said Friday Ryan M. Lance will assume the chairman and CEO role when current chief Jim Mulva retires in 2012.

Mulva plans to step down once the repositioning of the company is completed, which is expected in 2Q2012. The oil major said it would separate its refining business from exploration and production in July (see Daily GPI, July 15). Mulva has run the company since it merged with refining giant Phillips Petroleum Co. in 2002, which created the third-largest integrated U.S. energy company at the time (see Daily GPI, March 13, 2002; Nov. 20, 2001). Today the producer has almost 30,000 employees, $160 billion of assets and $226 billion of annualized revenues as of March 31.

Lance currently is ConocoPhillips’ senior vice president, exploration and production, international. A petroleum engineer, he has more than 26 years in the industry in senior management roles; he previously worked for predecessor Phillips Petroleum and various divisions of the former Atlantic Richfield Co.

“I am honored to lead the highly skilled and dedicated people at ConocoPhillips into the next chapter of its distinguished history as a pure-play exploration and production company,” said Lance.

Greg C. Garland was elected by the board to chair and become CEO of the new downstream company. Garland is currently senior vice president, exploration and production, Americas for ConocoPhillips. He began his career as a project engineer with Phillips Petroleum and has been associated with ConocoPhillips, its predecessors and affiliated companies for more than 31 years. From 2008 to 2010 Garland was president and CEO of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., the 50-50 joint venture (JV) of ConocoPhillips and Chevron. ConocoPhillips’ interest in the JV will be transferred to the downstream company following the separation.

Lance and Garland are to continue in senior management roles until the repositioning is completed, while also directing transition plans, including appointment of their executive management teams. The split into two independent companies remains subject to “market conditions,” as well as customary regulatory approvals, an affirmative ruling from the Internal Revenue Service, various agreements and final board approval, the company said.

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