Royal Dutch Shell plc confirmed Wednesday that it plans to close its Appalachian headquarters in Western Pennsylvania next summer, citing an “ongoing drive to enhance competitiveness” during the commodities downturn.

Shell spokeswoman Kimberly Windon said 180 employees currently work at the office in Sewickley, which is about 13 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. She said a “majority” of the workforce is being offered transfers to U.S. headquarters in Houston, as “employee retention is key to the company’s ongoing success.”

The company has field offices in McKean and Tioga counties in northern Pennsylvania where it has been most active. Windon said some employees would remain in the region, “particularly those with a high level of engagement with local stakeholders as well as operations and maintenance staff that will continue to support the asset from the field.”

She added that the company’s decision to close its Appalachian headquarters would not affect a proposal to construct a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker in Western Pennsylvania. The company has been working at a proposed site, but it has not announced when it may make a final investment decision.

“This decision and the proposed petrochemical facility are unrelated,” Windon said. “The proposed petrochemical project is independent from our Appalachia asset and the staff who support it.”

The company has roughly 600,000 net acres in the Marcellus Shale, according to NGI data compiled last year. And it has drilled less than 10 wells in the play this year, state data show.

Shell’s announcement is the latest in a series of moves by other energy companies operating in Appalachia that have announced job cuts, office closures and reduced budgets in response to low oil and gas prices. Range Resources Corp., Chevron Appalachia LLC, Consol Energy Inc., Halliburton Co., Chief Oil & Gas LLC and Noble Energy Inc., among others, have said publicly since the beginning of the year that they would either lay off workers or close offices (see Shale Daily, Sept. 3; June 19).