Occidental Petroleum

Occidental Petroleum Corporation
Traded as
Industry Oil and gas
Founded June 1920
Headquarters 5 Greenway Plaza, Suite 110
Houston, Texas, 77046
Key people
Stephen I. Chazen
(President & CEO until 2016)[1]
Products Oil, natural gas, petrochemicals
Production output
680 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (4,200,000 GJ) per day (Q4 2015)[2]
Revenue Decrease US$ 12.699 billion (2015)[2]
Decrease -US$7.829 billion (2015)[2]
Total assets Decrease US$ 43.708 billion (2015)[2]
Total equity Decrease US$ 24.350 billion (2015)[2]
Number of employees
11,100, 7,100 of which are in the United States (2015)[3]
Website www.oxy.com

Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy) is an American, Houston-based oil and gas exploration and production company with operations in the United States, the Middle East region, and South America. In 2015, it was the 16th largest gas producer[4] and 3rd largest oil producer in Texas.[5] Often abbreviated as "Oxy", in reference to its ticker symbol, the company is ranked #364 on the Forbes Global 2000 list.[6]

Current Operations

Vicki Hollub, who has worked at Occidental for around three decades, was announced to be the new CEO effective as of the 2016 annual shareholders' meeting.[7]

Oil and gas

Occidental's oil and gas operations are focused in three core areas, the United States, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Occidental had approximately 2.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent net proved reserves at December 31, 2014.[8] In the fourth quarter of 2015, the company had average daily production of 671 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (4,110,000 GJ).[2]

United States

Occidental's United States operations produced 312 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (1,910,000 GJ) per day in the 4th quarter of 2015, 46 percent of its total production. This included 51 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (310,000 GJ) per day of production in its mid-continent operations in Colorado and South Texas as well as 261 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (1,600,000 GJ) per day of production in the Permian Basin. The 261 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (1,600,000 GJ) per day of production in the Permian Basin included 143 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (870,000 GJ) per day of production using a technique called enhanced oil recovery, whereby carbon dioxide is injected into underground formations to extract the oil and gas.[2]

Middle East and North Africa

Occidental's Middle East and North Africa operations produced 320 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (2,000,000 GJ) per day in the 4th quarter of 2015, 47 percent of its total production.[2]

The region also holds 28 percent of the company's proved reserves.[3] In the Middle East, Occidental has operations in Libya, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.[9]

Oxy is the largest independent oil producer in Oman.[10] In Qatar, it is a partial owner in the Dolphin natural gas project, which delivers gas to Oman and the United Arab Emirates.[11] In early 2011, Occidental won a contract to join Abu Dhabi's state oil company in developing the Shah natural-gas project, one of the largest natural gas fields in the Middle East.[12]

The company's only North African operation is in Libya. In 2005, Occidental and partner Liwa won eight 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. The company is now seeking to sell its Libyan operations.[13]

Latin America

In Latin America, Occidental operates in Bolivia and Colombia.[14] Occidental's share of production from its Latin America assets was approximately 38 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (230,000 GJ) and 8 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in the fourth quarter of 2015.[2]

In Colombia, Occidental and Ecopetrol, the state-owned oil company, discovered the giant Caño Limón oilfield in 1983. It proved to be the largest discovery in Colombia's oil history and helped return the country to oil-exporter status.[15]


Occidental Chemical, based in Dallas, is a leading chemical manufacturer with interests in basic chemicals, vinyls and performance chemical products.[16]

Oxy's wholly owned chemical subsidiaries include Occidental Chemical Corporation (OxyChem), OxyVinyls, and INDSPEC Chemical Corporation. OxyChem is a Dallas, Texas-based manufacturer of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resins, chlorine and caustic soda used in plastics, pharmaceuticals and water treatment chemicals. Other products manufactured by the company include caustic potash, chlorinated organics, sodium silicates, chlorinated isocyanurates and calcium chloride. OxyChem has manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada and Chile.[17]

In a joint venture with Church & Dwight, Oxy owns Armand Products Company, which sells potassium carbonate and potassium bicarbonate.[18]

In October 2013, OxyChem and Mexichem announced the formation of a 50/50 joint venture, Ingleside Ethylene LLC, to build 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. Construction is expected to be completed in 2017.[19]


Occidental was founded in 1920 in California. In 1956 Occidental Petroleum came to the attention of Armand Hammer.[20] At Hammer's first association with Occidental, the company was run by Dave Harris, Roy Roberts, and John Sullivan. In 1957, Dr. Armand Hammer was elected president and CEO. In 1961, the company discovered the Lathrop Gas Field in the Arbuckle area of the Sacramento basin at Lathrop.[21] Over the next 10 years, Occidental expanded internationally with operations in Libya, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Trinidad, and the United Kingdom. Occidental won exploration rights in Libya in 1965 and operated there until all activities were suspended in 1986 after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Libya.

Occidental entered the chemical business with the acquisition of Hooker Chemical Company in 1968, 26 years after the contamination at Love Canal. It added to its chemical industries portfolio in 1988 with the outright purchase for $2 billion of Cain Chemical.[22] On July 6, 1988, an explosion and subsequent inferno on the Piper Alpha platform, operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd in the Scottish North Sea, resulted in 167 fatalities in what remains the world's most deadly offshore disaster.[23]

Tenure of Ray R. Irani

In 1990, Dr. Ray R. Irani became Occidental Petroleum Corporation's Chairman and CEO. He held the additional title of President from 2005 to 2007. Occidental Petroleum's compensation policies came under scrutiny in 2007 after it was announced that CEO Ray Irani collected $460 million in stock shares and salary in 2006.[24] In May 2011, Irani retired as CEO after the California State Teachers' Retirement System and Relational Investors, two major institutional Occidental shareholders, objected to the company's compensation policies for top executives.[25] President Stephen I. Chazen was named CEO of Occidental to replace Irani.[26] Since 1990, Occidental has gone from a collection of unrelated businesses to one that focuses on oil and gas.[27] During Irani's tenure as CEO, Occidental's market capitalization increased to more than $80 billion from $5.4 billion.[28]

Former areas of operation


Occidental formerly owned 100% of California Resources Corporation, the largest producer of oil and natural gas on a gross-operated barrels of oil equivalent basis in California.[29] Occidental distributed 80.5% of its shares in California Resources Corporation to Occidental shareholders in December 2014.[30]

Williston Basin, North Dakota

In 2010, Oxy acquired shale oil properties in the Williston Basin in North Dakota for $1.4 billion.[31] These assets, as well as other assets acquired by Oxy in the Williston Basin, were sold in 2015 for $600 million.[32]


In 2011, Occidental sold its oil and gas operations in Argentina to Sinopec, a subsidiary of China Petrochemical Corporation. These assets included proven and probable reserves of 393 million 393 million barrels of oil equivalent (2.40×109 GJ).[33]


Occidental formerly operated in block 15 of the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador. The government of Ecuador seized the company's interest in 2006 and in 2016, the government agreed to pay $980 million in restitution to Occidental for the seizure.[34]


In 2013, Oxychem sold its investment in Unipar Carbocloro for R$550 million.[35]

Phibro Energy Trading

In 2009, Oxy acquired Citigroup's controversial Phibro energy-trading business, for its net asset value of approximately $250 million.[36] 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.[37] In 2016, Phibro was wound down and sold.[38]

Research in oil shale

Starting in 1972, Occidental Oil Shale, Inc., a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, began research on a shale oil extraction process. [39]

The company conducted the first modified in situ oil shale experiment in 1972 at Logan Wash, Colorado.[39] The process used explosives to create underground chambers (retorts) of fractured oil shale. About 20% was mined out after which blasting was used to fracture oil shale. The commercial-sized retort covered 333 by 166 feet (101 by 51 m) area and had height of 400 feet (120 m). Oil shale was then ignited on the top by external fuel, and air or steam was injected to control the process. As a result, combustion moved from the top to the bottom of retort.[40]

During the process four major zones could be identified. In the pre-heat zone air contacted processed hot shale (spent shale) which pre-heated air. In the combustion zone, oxygen in air was used to burn carbon residue in the spent shale. Below this zone, heated gas caused retorting process converting kerogen in oil shale to oil shale gas and shale oil vapors. In the final zone oil and gas were cooled and collected through separation sump and collecting well.[39][40] All together, six retorts have been burned at the site.[39]

Historical financial performance

As of December 31, 2015, Occidental was one of the largest U.S. oil and gas companies measured by market capitalization, with a market capitalization of approximately $51 billion.[3]

Occidental Petroleum Financial Performance
Income before
income taxes
2005 $32.112 $16.259 $7.133
2006 $41.070 $18.160 $7.830
2007 $63.794 $20.013 $8.572
2008 $48.585 $24.480 $11.371
2009 $66.050 $15.531 $4.669
2010 $79.735 $19.157 $7.359
2011 $75.992 $24.119 $8.718
2012 $61.710 $24.172 $6.125
2013 $75.699 $24.445 $7.751
2014 $62.119 $19.312 $1.224
2015 $51.632 $12.480 ($9.684)


Corporate social responsibility

While subject to criticisms and controversies, the company publishes a Social Responsibility Overview in which it states that it "is committed to safeguarding the environment, protecting the safety and health of employees and neighboring communities, and upholding high standards of social responsibility."[45]

Occidental Petroleum is a signatory participant of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.


Occidental Petroleum began operations in Libya in 1965 and operated there until U.S. sanctions were imposed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan and was one of the first American company to resume negotiations in Libya after U.S. sanctions were lifted in 2004.[46] In 2008, Occidental Petroleum, along with five other oil companies, has been criticized for lobbying 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 the Pan Am flight in Lockerbie in 1988.[47] In 2008, the company hired Hogan & Hartson, a Washington, D.C., law firm as its lobbyist.[48] In early 2011, Oxy ceased exploration activities and production operations due to the growing civil unrest in the country and U.S. sanctions. In June 2011, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requested information from Occidental, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips related to the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), an investment firm controlled by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.[49] United Kingdom prosecutors, in cooperation with the SEC, have undertaken similar investigations of multiple oil companies during this same period to determine if there were any violations of international bribery laws.[50] 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.[49]

The company is now seeking to sell its Libyan operations.[13]

Environmental record

Oxy has been noted as a leader in using carbon sequestration for enhanced oil recovery, 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.[51]

In 2008, Occidental was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as Production Partner of the Year and in 2009 for Continuing Excellence (5 Years).[52] Occidental is a member of the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC). The WHC has certified the habitat conservation and education programs[53][54][55] at eight of the company's sites.[56]

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst identified Occidental Petroleum as the 19th-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with about 1.1 million pounds of toxic chemicals released annually into the air.[57]

Love Canal

Further information: Love Canal
An abandoned parking lot near Love Canal

In 1942, Hooker Chemical and Plastics began disposing chemical waste in the Love Canal region. Other companies, as well as the military, had used it as a chemical disposal site since the 1920s. In 1947, Hooker Chemicals became the owner and the sole user of the land. In 1952, the site was filled to capacity and closed off. Later in the 1950s, the local school board requested Hooker, after threatening to resort to eminent domain, sell the land. The school board intended to build a school on an unused area of the dump. Hooker Chemical sold the land to the school board at $1, with the warning that the site contained waste products from the manufacturing of chemicals, and disclaimed all subsequent liability.

A school was built on the site, and later a middle-class residential district was built upon the 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 Petroleum. In 1978, residents became concerned about unusual health issues in the Love Canal 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 Occidental paid $129 million in restitution.[58]

Oleum spil

On October 11, 2008, an accidental spill of oleum, a chemical similar to sulfuric acid, occurred at INDSPEC's facility in Petrolia, Pennsylvania. The accident caused contamination of the ventilation system and a cloud of toxic gas in the Petrolia sky. 2,500 residents of the area were asked to evacuate.[59]


Occidental met with substantial resistance from 1992 to 2001 when it tried to drill for oil in the territory of the U'wa people in northeast Colombia. The locals were concerned about environmental damage and feared that development would bring strangers and invite violence to the region. There also were tribal beliefs that oil is the "blood of the earth" and should not be removed. They believed that oil infrastructure would be a target for violent leftist guerillas in the country. After years of shareholder resolutions, legal battles, protests, and a failed test well, the company abandoned the project. Repsol YPF took over the project and continues to work on it.

Caño Limón

On December 13, 1998, seventeen 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, from a private aircraft, incorrectly identified 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.[60] A lawsuit was attempted in April 2003 against Occidental by Luis Alberto Galvis Mujica, a witness and survivor of the accident.[61] Plaintiffs claims were dismissed by the trial court.[62][63] The dismissal was appealed to 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sent the case back to the trial court to resolve a single issue.[64] The trial court declined to reconsider the case, thereby reinstating the dismissal. The case is once again on appeal.[65]

Maynas Carijano v. Occidental Petroleum

On May 10, 2007, a group of 25 indigenous Achuar Peruvians filed suit against Occidental, demanding clean-up and reparations for environmental damages allegedly caused by Occidental over 30 years. The plaintiffs claimed that the company violated the industry standards and the environmental regulations by dumping a total of 9 billion barrels (1.4×10^9 m3) of toxic oil by-products in watersheds used by the Achuar people to fish, drink, and bathe. This environmental damage was alleged to have caused premature deaths and birth defects.[66] A 2006 study by Peru's health ministry tested 199 people in seven affected communities, and found that all but two had levels of cadmium in their blood above safe levels.[66]

The Achuar were represented by Los Angeles-based EarthRights International and the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP.[67]

On March 3, 2010, EarthRights International (ERI) argued to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the landmark environmental and public health case brought by indigenous Peruvian Achuar and the U.S. NGO Amazon Watch against Los Angeles-based oil giant Occidental Petroleum (Oxy), Maynas Carijano v. Occidental Petroleum, should be litigated in Los Angeles, where Oxy is headquartered.[68] The appeals court overturned the prior decision and in 2013, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the company’s arguments against a domestic trial.[66]

In March 2015, Occidental Petroleum made an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed sum. The funds will be used for health, education and nutrition projects in five Achuar communities (Antioquía, José Olaya, Nueva Jerusalén, Pampa Hermosa and Saukí) in the Corrientes river basin in Peru’s northern Amazon.[66]

Political record

In 2005, Occidental was among 53 entities which contributed the maximum of $250,000 to the second inauguration of President George W. Bush.[69][70][71] Occidental has disclosed its contributions to political action committees, lobbyists, and industry trade groups on its website.[72]

Front Group Creation

Occidental Petroleum’s spinoff company California Resources Corp. created the group Powering California, which teamed up with the Los Angeles Times' “content solutions” team to promote oil-industry messaging.[73] (The Times’ "content solutions" department is wholly independent from its reporting and editorial staff.[73]).

In 2016, as the California legislature considered extending climate policies, Powering California came out with a series of videos praising oil and attacking clean energy sources. One of the videos baselessly asserts that “renewable energy can’t replace oil,” falsely claims wind energy is “expensive,” and bombastically declares that “oil and natural gas are woven into the fabric of America.” Another video features feel-good man-on-the-street interviews with paid actors touting California’s oil and gas industry.[73]

Gore family

Occidental's coal interests were represented for many years by attorney and former U.S. Senator Albert Gore, Sr., among others. Gore, who had a long-time close friendship with Hammer, became the head of the subsidiary Island Creek Coal Company, upon his election loss in the Senate. Much of Occidental's coal and phosphate production was in Tennessee, the state Gore represented in the Senate, and Gore owned shares in the company. Former Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. received much criticism from environmentalists, when the shares passed to the estate after the death of Albert Gore Sr., and Albert Gore Jr. was a son and the executor of the estate.[74][75] Albert Gore Jr. did not exercise control over the shares, which were eventually sold when the estate closed.[76][77] Island Creek Coal was sold to Consol Energy in 1993.[78]

In 1998, the U.S. government sold the Elk Hills naval petroleum reserve to Occidental for $3.65 billion. According to the government, the reserve was no longer strategically necessary, and the reserve was sold to reduce the national debt and the size of the government. To ensure competition, the field was sold in segments and offered to multiple bidders.[79] Critics cited Vice President Al Gore's involvement with the company as evidence of graft.[74]

Safety record

OxyChem has achieved Star Status under OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs as being among the safest work sites in the U.S.[80]

Piper Alpha

Further information: Piper Alpha

On July 6, 1988 Occidental's Piper Alpha offshore production platform in the UK 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.


In 1984, David Murdock owned about 5% of the company's shares. When Murdock called on the management to take measures to increase the share price, it chose to pay greenmail to buy back shares from him at $40.10, while the market price was $28.75.[81]


See also


  1. Stephen I. Chazen
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  5. "Largest Texas-Based Oil Producers". Business Journals. August 8, 2014.
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  65. "Torts - Injury Cases filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals matching "mujica"". Retrieved 12 January 2011.
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