Former BP chief executive Lord Browne is to oversee the $3.75 billion (£2.5bn) purchase of a huge raft of oil and gas assets in the Gulf of Mexico.
Private equity firm Riverstone Holdings, where Browne has been a partner since 2007, is buying the operations in the shallower waters of the Gulf from Houston-based Apache, which is planning $4bn in disposals by the end of this year.
Apache chief executive Steven Farris said the group was switching its focus towards onshore exploration because “dependable production growth” was becoming harder to achieve in the mature shallow waters, but it will retain a 50 per cent stake in blocks offering the potential for deeper discoveries.
The assets, covering 1.9 million acres, have proven reserves of 239 million barrels of oil equivalent, with production running at more than 95,000 barrels a day. They will be taken on by Riverstone subsidiary Fieldwood Energy.
Matt McCarroll, Fieldwood’s chief executive, said the firm was bring on board Apache’s “world-class” technical and operating staff in the region to “lead our efforts towards continued successful development of this substantial asset base”.
Browne spent 41 years at BP and ran the business from 1995 to 2007 through an era when it built a position as one of the most important players in the Gulf, especially in deeper waters.
He was replaced by Tony Hayward, who became the public face of the company’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, in which 11 people were killed. The explosion and subsequent environmental damage has landed BP with costs of more than $40bn. Hayward is now the boss of Genel Energy.
Browne is also a director at Riverstone-backed Cuadrilla Resources, which last month said Scottish Gas owner Centrica would invest up to £160m in its controversial shale gas fracking project in north-west England.
Riverstone, founded in 2000 by former Goldman Sachs bankers Pierre Lapeyre and David Leuschen, focuses on the energy sector and has committed about $23.7bn in more than 100 investments around the world.