Permian Basin explorer Pioneer Natural Resources Co. on Thursday announced a management shuffle, in part attributed to an evolving picture for Lower 48 oil and gas development.

Pioneer in Permian footprint

The Irving, TX-based independent also is tightening up its operations by laying off about 300 people combined from headquarters and Permian operations.

The management overhaul is taking effect Jan. 1 to support “continued goals” of delivering long-term shareholder value. Pioneer in August increased its 2020 oil production guidance by 2.5% to average 203,000-213,000 b/d, even after it curtailed about 7,000 b/d net in 2Q2020. At the time, the company said it would keep about 6,000 b/d shut-in for the foreseeable future because of low oil prices.

CEO Scott Sheffield, who helped build Pioneer into a powerhouse Lower 48 operator, initially served from 1997-2016 and then took the helm again last year. 

“When I returned as CEO in 2019 it was clear the shale model was undergoing a rapid transformation,” Sheffield said. “Pioneer responded by evolving its business strategy, culminating in the new investment framework we outlined in August that focused on strong returns, low leverage, significant free cash flow and return of capital to shareholders.”

Two months ago Sheffield signaled a management overhaul was in the works. He conducted a “listening tour” with employees and “the first thing we did is ask 30% of the officers to retire. 

“We promoted persons…in their early 40s to bring up younger talent into the management committee, and now we’re over 35% female on the management committee, which is something I’m proud of.”

Pioneer is simplifying its structure by flattening the organization, Sheffield said. The company is to be more “capital focused,” which is “just as important as delivering on the production side of the business,” he said in August.

With the start of 2021, Rich Dealy, who has served as CFO since 2004, is to become COO and president. Investor relations chief Neal H. Shah then would take over as the financial chief and  become a senior vice president (SVP). 

Beth McDonald, now vice president of Permian Strategic Planning and Field Development (SPFD), has been tapped as SVP of SPFD and Marketing. 

“Their collective experience, commitment and impact to Pioneer have been pivotal in securing Pioneer’s leading operational and financial position,” Sheffield said of the promoted executives. “I am confident that Pioneer has a bright future as we work to supply low-cost energy to the world while adhering to the highest environmental standards.”