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Chevron pivots to Permian shale as mega-project era fades

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Nearly a century after Chevron Corp amassed the No. 2 stake in America’s largest oilfield, Chief Executive John Watson is hitting the accelerator on developing the company’s vast Permian Basin holdings.

In an interview, Watson made clear his desire to put the West Texas to New Mexico expanse in the ranks of Chevron’s biggest ventures. That is a stark change from just five years ago, when Chevron executives rarely mentioned the shale basin.

But with low oil prices, the company is now spending more than it makes to cover its prized dividend and find new reserves. Now, those 2 million Permian acres have emerged as to way to help fund both goals.

“Some of the best things we have in our portfolio are the shales,” Watson said during an interview on the 48th floor of the company’s Houston office tower. “My employees in the Permian know I’m featuring it as something very important.”

Gone, for the next few years at least, are plans for any new multi-billion-dollar mega-projects, he said. To survive and grow, San Ramon, California-based Chevron is turning to acreage it has always controlled and that largely is free of royalties to landowners.

“We’re just in a period now where markets are weak and everyone is focused on controlling costs,” Watson said.

Within a decade, Watson expects Chevron’s production in the Permian to grow eightfold to more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day. By the end of next year, nine drilling rigs will join the 11 that Chevron already has poking holes into Permian land.

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Written by Ernest Scheyder at Reuters

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