Nearly 4,600 miles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, Houston-based Hilcorp Energy has closed on the largest acquisition of its corporate life. Founder Jeffrey Hildebrand, the previous CEO who now serves as the company’s executive chairman, sealed his name early on to a distinct oil and gas strategy that’s led to a most remarkable moment with the $5.6 billion acquisition of BP’s upstream and midstream assets in Alaska.
Hilcorp was founded in 1989 and their mission is to be the premier independent exploration production company in the country. Today, they are the largest privately owned oil and natural gas producer in the United States. They operate in Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming.
Growing the largest independent oil and gas company in the nation, Hildebrand set off from Exxon in the late 1980s as a geologist and petroleum engineer and soon discovered wild success reinvigorating old and declining oil and gas fields. Hilcorp’s operations currently lie in Ala., Alaska, Colo., La., N.M., Ohio, Pa., Texas and Wyo. But it’s Alaska where Hildebrand discovered a certain calling that now has airlifted Hilcorp into a new stratosphere.
But first, a little backstory because this is how certain oil and gas companies have discovered a sweet spot for their own distinct strategy.
Founded in 1989, Hilcorp, under Hildebrand’s leadership, began snapping up oil and gas leases on the cheap during Alaska’s annual Cook Inlet auctions, most often as the lone bidder. With the Prudhoe Bay oil field in decline, the company earned a solid reputation for deploying new technology that squeezed out higher production from old assets there bought from energy majors who moved on to other, more lucrative projects.
Over time, Hildebrand and Hilcorp proved to be an Alaskan oil and gas champ that bought up mature fields and exploited reserves using its innovations that realized a hefty profit. In short order, Hilcorp became the primary operator in the Cook Inlet, which today is the only supply of natural gas to feed Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska. As recently as June 24, Hilcorp bid on and won another 7,146 acres at the Cook Inlet for an average price of $26.76 per acre. Again, the solitary bidder. The company now is considered the largest private operator and gas supplier in the state. And that’s before the latest BP deal.
When BP in August last year announced parting ways with $10 billion in assets by 2020—specifically the company’s Alaska operations—Hilcorp leaped on the opportunity with a $5.6 billion purchase offer that was quickly accepted. Part one of this megadeal includes oil and gas leases within Point Thomson, Milne Point, and Prudhoe Bay, making Hilcorp the second-largest producer in the state behind ConocoPhillips, as well as the operator of the massive Prudhoe Bay oil field. The acquired leases will add to Hilcorp’s already sizeable producing assets there, which will augment its more than 530,000 gross acres and 500+ operating wells.
Part two, which is expected to be approved by local regulators in September, includes BP’s 50% ownership in the 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). Constructed in 1977, TAPS extends from Prudhoe Bay in the north to Valdez on the southern coast and is one of the largest pipeline systems in the world. The total divestiture by BP for all intents and purposes ends the era of the oil giant in the Land of the Midnight Sun dating back to 1959.
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