Occidental Petroleum

Occidental Petroleum
Occidental Petroleum Corporation
Type Public (NYSE: OXY)
Industry Oil and gas
Founded 1920
Headquarters Los Angeles, California
Key people Ray R. Irani (Executive Chairman)[1]
Stephen I. Chazen (President and CEO)[1]
Products Oil, Natural gas, Petrochemicals
Revenue US$ 19.16 billion (2010)[2]
Net income US$ 4.53 billion (2010)[2]
Employees 11,000 (2010)[3]
Website www.oxy.com
Occidental Petroleum headquarters in Westwood, Los Angeles, California

Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy) is a California-based oil and gas exploration and production company with operations in the United States, the Middle East, North Africa, and South America. "Oxy" is the largest oil producer in Texas and the largest natural gas producer and second-largest producer of oil and gas combined in California,[4] with additional operations in Kansas, North Dakota, Utah, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico.[5] The company nickname began in 1964 in reference to Occidental’s NYSE stock ticker (OXY). Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, Oxy is the fourth-largest U.S. oil and gas company, based on equity market capitalization. As of 2010, the company has more than 30,000 employees and contractors worldwide.[3]

Oxy's role in oil and natural gas exploration and production, to which they have pledged a commitment to responsibility, has also been a source of criticism. The company states that it is "committed to respecting the environment, protecting safety and upholding high standards of social responsibility throughout its worldwide operations."[6] Critics have raised concerns about Occidental's historical operations in these areas.

Oxy’s subsidiaries include wholly owned chemical manufacturers Occidental Chemical Corporation (OxyChem), OxyVinyls, and INDSPEC Chemical Corporation. Oxy indirectly owns Armand Products Company with Church & Dwight Co., Inc.. Carbocloro S.A. Indústrias Químicas, is a joint venture between OxyChem and UNIPAR in Brazil.



Occidental was founded in 1920. In 1957, Dr. Armand Hammer was elected president and CEO. In 1961, the company discovered the second largest natural gas field in California in the Arbuckle area of the Sacramento basin at Lathrop. 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. On July 6, 1988, an explosion and subsequent inferno on the Piper Alpha platform, operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd in the UK North Sea, resulted in 167 fatalities in what remains the world's most deadly offshore disaster.[7]

Occidental entered the chemical business with the acquisition of Hooker Chemicals in 1968, 26 years after the contamination at Love Canal. Today, Dallas-based Occidental Chemical is a leading chemical manufacturer with interests in basic chemicals, vinyls and performance chemical products.[8]

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. Irani and Occidental President, Stephen Chazen, ordered a reduction in company expenditures that resulted in hundreds of company job terminations, the majority of whom were veteran employees, in 2007-2008, at the height of the recession, even as Irani collected a massive $460 million dollar total compensation package for 2006 and the company enjoyed record profits. According to the Associated Press, within the last decade, he has received $857 million. "We're not in the business to employ people. We're in the business to make a profit," Irani has said. Chazen collected $38,080,344 and Irani $76,107,010 in fiscal year 2010, nearly doubling his 2009 compensation despite shareholder outrage over the Occidental board of directors executive pay policies. A survey of Fortune 500 corporate general counsel compensation revealed that Occidental general counsel Donald de Brier was second highest on the list at approximately $6 million with total compensation reaching $34, 528,779.[9][10] Irani retired as CEO on May 10, 2011 after the California State Teachers' Retirement System and Relational Investors, two major institutional Occidental Investors, objected to the company's compensation policies and announced plans to replace long-term board members who were described as "ossified" in a letter written in protest of Irani's salary. They also termed Irani's salary a "corporate giveaway program." Irani's salary was considered excessive and not truly performance based for decades by a number of corporate governance authorities who noted that Irani's compensation had exceeded that of the head of energy giant ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, who leads a company with a market cap that is five times larger than Occidental Petroleum. Former CFO and current President Stephen Chazen was named CEO of Occidental to replace the 76 year-old Irani who plans to stay on as executive Chairman until 2014. Despite retiring as CEO, Irani continues to exclusively utilize the company's Boeing Business Jet, enjoys lavish perqs, and is often jointly interviewed with Stephen Chazen in business publications, causing some to question whether he has truly relinquished leadership of the company.[11][1][12] Since 1990, Occidental has gone from a collection of unrelated businesses to one that focuses on oil and gas.[13] During Irani's tenure as CEO, Occidental’s market capitalization increased to more than $80 billion from $5.4 billion.[14]

In 2005, Occidental was among 53 entities which contributed the maximum of $250,000 to the second inauguration of President George W. Bush.[15][16][17] In 2008, Oxy contributed $301,579 to Democratic candidates and $204,587 to Republican candidates.[18]

Financial performance

At year-end 2010, Occidental was the fourth-largest U.S. oil and gas company measured by market capitalization, with a market capitalization of $79.7 billion at that date.[19] This represented a fifteenfold increase in the company's market capitalization since the end of 1990, when it was approximately $5.4 billion.[20] At year-end 2010, Occidental was ranked No. 33 on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.[21] Shares of Occidental rose by nearly 21 percent in 2010, compared with a 12 percent increase in the Chicago Board Options Exchange index of oil companies.[22]

Occidental Petroleum Financial Performance
Fiscal year Market capitalization (billions)[19] Revenue (billions)[2] Income before income taxes (loss)(billions)[2]
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


Oil and gas

Occidental’s growth strategy in oil and gas relies on three components: enhanced oil recovery (EOR), exploration and acquisitions. Occidental’s oil and gas operations are focused in three core areas, the United States, the Middle East/North Africa, and South America. Occidental had approximately 3.36 billion barrels (534,000,000 m3) of oil equivalent net proved reserves at December 31, 2010.[23] In 2010, the company had its highest annual daily sales volume in history – 748,000 barrels (118,900 m3) of oil equivalent.[24]

The United States accounted for 66 percent of Occidental's oil and gas reserves and 51 percent of the current production in 2010.[25] Occidental is the largest producer of natural gas and second-largest producer of oil and gas on a barrels of oil equivalent basis in California, where in 2009 it made what is believed to be the largest oil and natural gas discovery in the state in 35 years.[26] It also operates the THUMS Islands in the San Pedro Bay. Occidental's total share of oil and gas 2010 production in California was approximately 139,000-barrel (22,100 m3) of oil equivalent per day and its properties held approximately 768-million-barrel (122,100,000 m3) of oil equivalent in proved reserves.[5]

Occidental also has significant oil and natural gas holdings in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico. Occidental is the largest oil producer in the Permian Basin,[27] where it produced roughly 197,000 barrels (31,300 m3) of oil equivalent per day in 2010 and held 1.2 billion barrels (190,000,000 m3) of proved reserves as of December 31, 2010.[28][29] In the Permian Basin, Oxy is the largest operator of EOR oil projects that inject carbon dioxide into underground formations to extract the oil and gas that remains after primary recovery operations.[30] In 2010, the company’s 31 CO2 projects produced nearly 85,000 barrels (13,500 m3) of oil per day as a result of EOR, according to Oil & Gas Journal’s biennial EOR survey.[31]

Occidental’s Mid-Continent Gas operations are concentrated in the Permian Basin, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma. These operations produced approximately 62,000 barrels (9,900 m3) of oil equivalent per day in 2010 and had proved reserves of 266 million barrels (42,300,000 m3) of oil equivalent, as of December 31, 2010.[5] In 2010, Oxy announced the acquisition of new shale oil properties in Williston Basin in North Dakota as well as natural gas and oil properties in South Texas.[32][33]

Occidental’s Middle East and North Africa operations accounted for 38 percent of its worldwide production in 2010, producing approximately 287,500 barrels (45,710 m3) of oil equivalent.[25] The region also holds 26 percent of the company’s proved reserves. In the Middle East, Occidental has operations in Libya, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and Yemen.[5][25] Oxy is the second-largest oil producer in Oman.[34] In Qatar, it is a partner in the giant Dolphin natural gas project, which delivers gas to Oman and the United Arab Emirates.[35][36] The company has its only operation in North Africa 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 that country. 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.[37]

In South America, Occidental operates in Bolivia and Colombia. Occidental’s share of production from its Colombia assets was approximately 32,000 barrels (5,100 m3) of oil per day in 2010.[5] 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 the oil-exporter status.[38]

In 2010, Occidental announced the sale of its oil and gas operations in Argentina to Sinopec, a subsidiary of China Petrochemical Corporation; the transaction was completed in early 2011.[39] Occidental formerly operated in Ecuador, but the government ended the company's interests in block 15 in the Ecuadorian Amazon in 2006.[40]


Oxy’s subsidiaries include wholly owned chemical manufacturers 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, Chile and Brazil.[5]

Through joint ventures, Oxy indirectly owns Armand Products Company, with OxyChem and Church & Dwight Co., Inc., which sells potassium carbonate and potassium bicarbonate. Carbocloro S.A. Indústrias Químicas, a joint venture between OxyChem and UNIPAR, manufactures and sells chlor-alkali products in Brazil.[41]

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.[42]

Oil shale

Starting in 1972, Occidental Oil Shale, Inc., a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, began research on a shale oil extraction process, ending research in 1991.[43][44] The company conducted the first modified in situ oil shale experiment in 1972 at Logan Wash, Colorado.[44] 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.[45]

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.[45][46] All together, six retorts have been burned at the site.[47]


CFO Stephen Chazen led Occidental's October 12, 2009 acquisition of Citigroup's controversial Phibro energy-trading business, paying $250 million for the unit and the services of Phibro chief Andrew J. Hall. Hall’s compensation of $100 million in 2009 was seen as a problem for troubled Citibank which struggled with continuing losses before selling the unit. So far the Occidental-owned Phibro has had mixed results. Occidental suffered significant trading losses in 2010, causing the company to fall short of analyst expectations, and landed in the red again in the second quarter of 2011 despite Chazen’s public support of Hall.[48] [49]

Corporate social responsibility

Occidental's role in oil and natural gas exploration and production has also been a source of criticism. The company states that it is "committed to respecting the environment, maintaining safety and upholding high standards of social responsibility throughout the company's worldwide operations."[50] Critics have raised concerns about Occidental's historical operations in these areas.

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


Occidental has been criticized for lobbying for a special exemption, on behalf of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, to a federal law designed by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to assist American terror victims seize assets of countries found culpable in terror attacks such as the Libyan bombing of the Pan Am flight in Lockerbie in 1988 which resulted in the deaths of 270 passengers and crew, including 189 Americans. In 2008 the company hired Hogan & Hartson, a Washington D.C. law firm to successfully secure the exemption for Libya, a country where Occidental had major oil drilling operations prior to the anti-Qaddafi uprising in February 2011. Occidental’s Chairman, Ray Irani, told investors during a conference call in 2007 that “Libya is a very attractive place” in describing that country’s oil reserves.[51] Irani led Occidental back into Libya in 2005, personally negotiating with Qaddafi, the terms of a new contract after the sanctions imposed by President Reagan as a result of Libya’s terror attacks were finally lifted by the U.S. government. The company has since withdrawn from Libya pending resolution of the current crisis.[52]

Libyan Investment Authority

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission was in June 2011 investigating Occidental’s possible role in illegal actions relating to the Libyan Investment Authority or LIA, an investment firm controlled by Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. United Kingdom prosecutors, in cooperation with the SEC, have undertaken similar investigations of Occidental’s actions during this same period to determine if Occidental, as well as other oil companies, violated international bribery laws. The Libyan government has invested $80 million dollars in Occidental. These funds were subsequently seized by the U.S. government in reaction to Qaddafi’s attacks on Libyan civilians.[53]

Environmental record

Oxy has been noted within the oil and gas industry as being among the first to employ carbon dioxide (CO2) injection for enhanced oil recovery; this technique is a means of long-term geologic storage of CO2, which could reduce future greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.[54][55]

Occidental was recognized by the EPA in 2008 as Production Partner of the Year and in 2009 for Continuing Excellence (5 Years).[56] Occidental is a member of the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC). The WHC has certified the habitat conservation and education programs[57][58][59] at eight of the company's sites.[60]

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst identified Occidental Petroleum as the 47th-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with about 1.2 million pounds of toxic chemicals released annually into the air.[61] Pollutants emitted by the company included chlorine, antimony compounds, benzotrichloride, and hydrochloric acid.[citation needed]

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, to 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.[62]


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 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 the Occidental's complex in Caño Limón.[63] A lawsuit was attempted in April 2003 against Occidental by Luis Alberto Galvis Mujica, a witness and survivor of the accident.[64] Plaintiffs claims were dismissed by the trial court.[65][66] The dismissal was appealed to 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sent the back case to the trial court to resolve a single issue.[67] The trial court declined to reconsider the case, thereby reinstating the dismissal. The case is once again on appeal.[68]

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. The Achuar were represented by Los Angeles-based EarthRights International and the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP.[69]

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. The appeals court will be deciding whether the oil giant will face suit in its own hometown or whether the case will move to Peru.[70]

Political record


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.

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.[71][72] Albert Gore Jr. did not exercise control over the shares, which were eventually sold when the estate closed.[73][74]

In 1998, the US 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.[75] Critics cited Vice President Al Gore's involvement with the company as evidence of graft.[71]

Safety record

OxyChem has achieved Star Status under OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs as being among the safest work sites in the U.S.[76][77]

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 most deadly offshore disaster.


  • Occidental Oil & Gas Corporation
  • Occidental Chemical Corporation (OxyChem)

See also


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