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Occidental Petroleum
Occidental Petroleum

Occidental Petroleum Corporation (often abbreviated Oxy in reference to its ticker symbol) is an American company engaged in hydrocarbon exploration in the United States, the Middle East, and Colombia as well as petrochemical manufacturing in the United States, Canada, and Chile. It is organized in Delaware and headquartered in Houston. The company is ranked 722nd on the Forbes Global 2000[2] and 220th on the Fortune 500.[3]

In 2018, the company was the 9th largest petroleum producer in Texas.[4]


  • 1920: Occidental Petroleum was founded in California.
  • 1957: Armand Hammer was elected president and chief executive officer of the company after he acquired a controlling stake in the firm for tax reasons.
  • 1961: The company discovered the Lathrop Gas Field in Lathrop, California.[5]
  • 1960s: The company expanded internationally with operations in Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Trinidad, and the United Kingdom.
  • 1965: Occidental won exploration rights in Libya.[5] and operated there until all activities were suspended in 1986 after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Libya.[6]
  • 1968: The company entered the chemical business with the acquisition of Hooker Chemical Company, 26 years after the contamination at Love Canal.[7]
  • 1971: Occidental received permission to develop an oil refinery in Canvey Island in Essex, England. The company began construction but stopped in 1975 as a result of the 1970s energy crisis. The site remained derelict; the tanks and the chimney were subsequently demolished. Only some concrete foundations and the river jetty remain extant.[8]
  • 1972: The company was one of the first companies to research developing oil shale.[9]
  • 1981: The company acquired IBP, Inc., one of largest producers of beef and pork products in the United States.[10][11]
  • 1983: The company and Ecopetrol, the Colombian state-owned oil company, discovered the giant Caño Limón oilfield.[12]
  • 1986: The company suspends operation in Libya due to economic sanctions imposed on that country by the United States.
  • April 1988: Occidental acquired Cain Chemical for $2 billion.[13][14]
  • July 6, 1988: An explosion and subsequent inferno on the company's Piper Alpha platform in the Scottish North Sea, resulted in 167 fatalities in what remains the world's most deadly offshore disaster.[15]
  • September 1988: The company formed a joint venture with Church & Dwight, which makes Arm & Hammer products, for a potassium carbonate plant at Muscle Shoals, Alabama.[16]
  • 1990: Armand Hammer died and Ray R. Irani became chairman and chief executive officer of the company.[17][18]
  • 1991: The company sold its stake in IBP, Inc.[10]
  • 1993: Occidental sold its remaining coal operations.[19]
  • February 1996: The company announced layoffs of 450 people in its chemical division.[20]
  • July 1996: The company sold its interest in 3 oilfields in the Congo to the Congolese government for $215 million.[21]
  • 1997: Occidental paid $3.65 billion to acquire the Elk Hills Oil Field.[22]
  • 2005: The company and its partner, Liwa, won 8 out of 15 exploration spots on the EPSA-4 auction, making both companies among the first to enter the Libyan market since the United States lifted its embargo on Libya.[23]
  • October 2005: The company acquired Vintage Petroleum for $3.8 billion.[24][25]
  • 2006: The government of Ecuador seized the company's interest in block 15 of the Amazon Rainforest, forcing the company to take a $306 million after-tax charge.[26][27] In 2016, Ecuador agreed to pay $980 million in restitution to the company, down from the original award of $1.77 billion. The agreement was based on a 2012 arbitration award from the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.[28]
  • 2007: Occidental's compensation policies came under scrutiny after it was announced that Irani received $460 million in compensation in 2006.[29]
  • 2008: The company acquired a 10% stake in Plains All American Pipeline.[30] The company also acquired assets from Plains Exploration & Production for $1.3 billion.[31]
  • February 2009: The company closed its Louisville OxyVinyl polyvinyl chloride production plant.[32]
  • October 2009: The company acquired Citigroup's controversial Phibro energy-trading business, for its net asset value of approximately $250 million.[33][34] The unit was managed by Andrew J. Hall, who received compensation of approximately $100 million per year in 2007 and 2008. After the acquisition, the division reported its first losses since the 1990s.[35] In 2016, Phibro was wound down and sold.[36]
  • December 2010: Occidental acquired shale oil properties in the Williston Basin in North Dakota for $1.4 billion.[37] These assets, as well as other assets acquired by Oxy in the Williston Basin, were sold in 2015 for $600 million.[38]
  • December 2010: The company sold its proven and probable reserves of 393 million barrels of oil equivalent (2.40×109 GJ) in Argentina to Sinopec, a subsidiary of China Petrochemical Corporation. It also acquired properties in South Texas and North Dakota for $3.2 billion.[39][40]
  • January 2011: Occidental partnered with Abu Dhabi's state oil company in developing the Shah Field, one of the largest natural gas fields in the Middle East, through a joint venture known as Al Hosn Gas.[41] Al Hosn Gas became operational in 2015.[42]
  • May 2011: Ray R. Irani retires as CEO after CalSTRS and Relational Investors, two major shareholders, objected to the company's compensation policies for top executives.[43] President Stephen I. Chazen was named CEO to replace Irani and in 2013, shareholders ousted Irani as chairman.[44] Despite his outlandish compensation, during Irani's tenure, the company grew from a collection of unrelated businesses to one that focuses on oil and gas and the market capitalization of the company went from $5.5 billion to $80 billion.[45][46]
  • 2013: Oxychem sold its investment in Unipar Carbocloro for R$550 million.[47]
  • September 2014: Occidental moved its headquarters to Houston, Texas.[48][49]
  • November 2014: The company sold its 50% interest in BridgeTex Pipeline Company, owner of a 300,000 barrel-per-day crude oil pipeline system that extends from Colorado City, Texas to Texas City, Texas, for $1.075 billion.[50][51]
  • December 2014: The company distributed 80.5% of its shares in California Resources Corporation, the largest producer of oil and natural gas on a gross-operated barrels of oil equivalent basis in California, to Occidental shareholders[52] and distributed its remaining stake to shareholders in March 2016.[53]
  • October 2015: Occidental completed the first phase of a $500 million carbon dioxide flooding project in Hobbs, New Mexico.[54]
  • January 2016: The company sold an office tower in Dallas, Texas for $95 million.[55]
  • May 2016: Vicki Hollub, who had worked at Occidental since 1981 and joined the board in 2015, became the chief executive officer of the company, the first female to serve as chief executive officer of a major U.S. oil and gas company.[56]
  • March 2017: the company and its 50/50 joint venture partner Mexichem began operations of a 1.2-billion-pound per year capacity ethylene cracker at the OxyChem plant in Ingleside, Texas, along with pipelines and storage at Markham, Texas.[57]
  • June 2017: the company sold land in the Permian Basin for $600 million and used the proceeds to acquire other assets in the area.[58]
  • Aug 2019: the company acquires independent oil and gas exploration company Anadarko Petroleum for $57 billion, making the deal the world's fourth biggest oil and gas acquisition to date. [59]

Current operations

The company's oil and gas operations are concentrated in three geographic areas: the United States, Colombia, and the Middle East. As of December 31, 2018, Occidental had 2.792 billion barrels of oil equivalent (1.708×1010 GJ) of oil equivalent net proved reserves, of which 57% was petroleum, 18% was natural gas liquids, and 25% was natural gas. In 2018, the company had production of 658 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (4,030,000 GJ) per day.[1]

In 2018, the company's United States operations produced 372 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (2,280,000 GJ) per day, representing 57% of the company's worldwide production. Substantially of this production was in the Permian Basin, where Occidental is the largest operator and oil producer. The company produced 214 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (1,310,000 GJ) per day from unconventional oil directional drilling via Permian Resources and 154 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (940,000 GJ) per day using a technique called enhanced oil recovery, whereby carbon dioxide and water are injected into underground formations to extract the oil and gas.[1]

The company's oil and gas operations in the Middle East are in Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates and are via production sharing agreements. The region produced 286 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (1,750,000 GJ) per day, representing approximately 43% of 2018 total worldwide production. The region also held 28% of the company's proved reserves in 2018.[1]

The company is the largest independent oil producer in Oman.[60] In Qatar, the company is the second-largest oil producer offshore and is a partial owner in the Dolphin Gas Project, which delivers gas to Oman and the United Arab Emirates.[61]

In Colombia, which accounted for 31 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (190,000 GJ) per day of production, or 5% of total production in 2018, the company operates the Caño Limón oilfield.[1]

OxyChem manufactures polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resins, chlorine and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) used in plastics, pharmaceuticals and water treatment chemicals. Other products manufactured by the company include caustic potash, chlorinated organics, sodium silicates, chlorinated cyanuric acid (isocyanurate), and calcium chloride. OxyChem has manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada and Chile. In a joint venture with Church & Dwight, OxyChem owns Armand Products Company, which sells potassium carbonate and potassium bicarbonate.[1]


The company began operations in Libya in 1965 and operated there until economic sanctions were imposed in 1986 by the United States.[6] The company was one of the first American companies to resume negotiations in Libya after the sanctions were lifted in 2004.[62] In 2008, the company, along with 5 other oil companies, was criticized for hiring Hogan Lovells to lobby to exempt Libya from a law written by U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to assist American terror victims in seizing assets of countries found culpable in terror attacks, such as the Libyan bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988.[63] and to remove a provision in the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that requires disclosure of payments to foreign governments.[64] In early 2011, the company ceased exploration activities and production operations in Libya due to the growing civil unrest in the country and U.S. sanctions. In June 2011, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and United Kingdom prosecutors requested information from the company, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips related to the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), an investment firm controlled by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, to determine if there were any violations of international bribery laws.[65][66] The Libyan Investment Authority's investments were frozen by the U.S. government in early 2011 following the Gaddafi regime's attacks on Libyan civilians.[65] In 2016, the company ceased operations in Libya.

In 2017, the company was ranked 55th on the Carbon Majors Report, a list of the Top 100 producers and their cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from 1988-2015.[67]

In 2017, 23% of the company's production was from a method of oil extraction called carbon dioxide (CO2) flood technology, or carbon sequestration for enhanced oil recovery,[1] which is a more environmental-friendly method of oil extraction because it could stall the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by instead injecting it into the ground. The company has stated that this is one way in which it reduces emissions.[68]

In 1982, the company acquired land in the Copper Basin in Tennessee, formerly the site of the Burra Burra Mine, where copper and sulfur had been mined in the 1800s. In 2016, Occidental agreed to spend $50 million to clean up the Copper Basin and restore the water quality of its creeks.[69][70]

Since the 1920's, several companies and the United States Armed Forces used the Love Canal as a chemical disposal site. In 1942, Hooker Chemical Company began disposing chemical waste at the site and, in 1947, it became the sole owner and user of the land. In 1952, the site was filled to capacity and closed off. The company leased the land to the school board in 1953. Later in the 1950s, the local school board requested that the company sell the land, and threatened to use eminent domain. The school board intended to build a school on an unused area of the dump.[71]

A school was built on the site, and later a middle-class residential district was built on land adjacent to the site. The construction broke through the 4-foot (1.2 m) clay seal containing the waste. In 1968, Hooker Chemical was purchased by Occidental. In 1978, residents became concerned about unusual health issues in the region, including high rates of cancer and birth defects. This subsequently became a national news story, and in 1980, president Jimmy Carter declared a federal emergency in the area. Residents were eventually relocated, and the company paid $129 million in restitution.[72][7]

On Saturday, October 11, 2008, an accidental spill of oleum, a chemical mixture of sulfuric acid, occurred at a facility in Petrolia, Pennsylvania belonging to Indspec, an affiliate of Occidental Chemical Corporation. The accident caused contamination of the ventilation system and a cloud of toxic gas in the sky and forced the evacuation of over 2,000 residents of the area for the day.[73] The spill was determined to be caused by the use of an auxiliary pump power supply that lacked safety interlocks to prevent tank overfilling.[74][7]

From 1992 to 2001, the company tried to drill for oil in the territory of the U'wa people, in northeast Colombia. The locals resisted, concerned about environmental degradation and fears that development would bring strangers and be a target for guerilla warfare. There also were tribal beliefs that oil is the "blood of the earth" and should not be removed.[75][76] In 2002, after years of shareholder resolutions, legal battles, protests, and a failed test well, the company abandoned the project.[77][78] Repsol took over the project.

On December 13, 1998, 17 civilians, including 7 children, were killed when the Colombian Air Force (CAF) dropped a cluster bomb in the hamlet of Santo Domingo, Colombia, after AirScan, Occidental's security contractor, misidentified it as a hostile guerrilla target. Groups such as FARC and the National Liberation Army were active in the area. Three employees of AirScan were flying the Skymaster plane from which they provided the Colombian military with the coordinates to drop the bombs. The operation had been planned by the CAF and AirScan at Occidental's complex in Caño Limón. In April 2003, Luis Alberto Galvis Mujica, a witness and survivor of the accident, sued Occidental.[79] The courts ruled that Occidental was not liable for the incident.[80][81]

On May 10, 2007, a group of 25 Achuar Peruvians, a group of Indigenous peoples, filed suit against the company, demanding environmental remediation and reparations for environmental degradation allegedly caused by the company between 1971 and 2000, when it drilled in Block 1-AB in Peru. The plaintiffs claimed that the company violated technical standards and environmental law when it dumped a total of 9 billion barrels (1.4×10^9 m3) of toxic oil by-products, such as cadmium, lead, and arsenic, in drainage basins used by the Achuar people to fish, drink, and bathe. This environmental damage was alleged to have caused premature deaths and birth defects. A 2006 study by the Ministry of Health of Peru, found that all but 2 of the 199 people tested had levels of cadmium in their blood above safe levels.[82]

The Achuar were represented by EarthRights International and the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP.[83]

On March 3, 2010, EarthRights International argued to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that the case should be litigated in Los Angeles, where the company was headquartered.[84][85] The court agreed with a trial in the United States, overturning the decision of the lower courts, and, in 2013, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the company's appeal. In March 2015, the company made a settlement for an undisclosed amount, with the funds to be used for health, education, and nutrition projects in 5 Achuar communities in the Corrientes River basin.[83]

In 2019, Occidental Petroleum acquired Anadarko Petroleum inheriting a significant legacy of environmental infractions including the largest environmental contamination settlement in American history,[86] involvement with the Deepwater Horizon BP disaster[87] and fines under the Clean Water Act.[88]

Occidental has disclosed its contributions to political action committees, lobbyists, and trade associations on its website.[89]

In 2005, the company was among 53 entities which contributed the maximum of $250,000 to the Second inauguration of George W. Bush.[90][91][92]

The company also donated between $10,000 and $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation.[93]

Former CEO Armand Hammer was a long time friend of former U.S. Senator Albert Gore, Sr. and Gore was a member of the board of directors of the company. In 1972, after he lost an election for the United States Senate, Gore became the head of Island Creek Coal Company, an Occidental subsidiary. Much of the company's coal and phosphate production was in Tennessee, the state Gore represented in the Senate, and Gore owned shares in the company.[94] The company liquidated its coal assets in 1993 after Hammer died.[19]

Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore was criticized by environmentalists when he inherited shares in the company after the death of his father in 1998; however, the shares were immediately sold.[95][96][97]

In 1998, the U.S. government sold the Elk Hills Oil Field to Occidental for $3.65 billion after an auction process that involved selling the field in segments and offering it to multiple bidders.[98] However, critics cited the Gore family's involvement with the company as evidence of graft.[95]

In 1999, OxyChem achieved Star Status under OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs as being among the safest work sites in the U.S.[99]

On July 6, 1988, the company's Piper Alpha offshore production platform in the North Sea was destroyed when an out of service gas condensate pump was started with its pressure safety valve removed. The subsequent gas leak, explosion and fire resulted in the deaths of 167 workers in what remains the world's deadliest offshore disaster.[15]

In 1984, billionaire David Murdock owned about 5% of the company and was a member of its board of directors, after the company acquired IBP, Inc., of which Murdock owned 19%. After disagreements between Murdock and then CEO Armand Hammer, the company paid greenmail to buy Murdock's shares at $40.09 each, while the market price was $28.75.[100]

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