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Financial Times: BP’s Sakhalin chief to head Alaskan unit

By Lucy Killgren and Ed Crooks: Published: November 2 2006 02:00 | Last updated: November 2 2006 02:00

BP is to replace Steve Marshall, head of its Alaskan arm, after severe corrosion in oil transit lines forced the closure of half of Prudhoe Bay – the biggest oilfield of its troubled US operations – in August.

Mr Marshall, president of BP Exploration Alaska, who had been in the role for five years and is a BP veteran of 29 years, will be replaced by Doug Suttles, president of BP’s Sakhalin operations in Russia’s far east.

BP said Mr Suttles had “long experience in Alaska” and would take up his new role on January 1.

Mr Marshall will become vice-president of operations development as part of an overhaul of BP’s US management, where he will lead an “operations academy” designed to disseminate information about best practice across the company.

BP said Mr Marshall’s move was “not directly linked” to the problems in Alaska.

“It was time to move to his next role,” it said. “He had been in the job for five years. Tony Hayward [chief executive of the exploration and production division] asked him to take on the job.”

BP has been beset by problems in the US, including the fatal explosion at its Texas City refinery in March last year, an oil spill in Alaska in March and the later closure at Prudhoe Bay, as well as delays to the opening of the flagship Thunder Horse project in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company has been restructuring its US management, appointing Bob Malone as the new chairman and president of BP America in June.

Mr Malone has appointed Judge Stanley Sporkin, a former federal district court judge, to be the company’s US ombudsman, to listen to concerns raised by staff, including issues in Alaska going back to 2000.

He has also hired three leading experts on corrosion to review BP’s corrosion inspection, monitoring and prevention in Alaska.

A new head of the Texas City refinery was appointed in May 2005, and is due to be replaced early next year by the general manager of a Shell refinery in Louisiana.

Prudhoe Bay accounted for 8 per cent of US domestic supply. Its closure led to anger about BP’s pipeline management policies and has prompted scrutiny in Washington DC, at a time when high fuel prices have made oil companies generally unpopular.

In September, Mr Marshall faced tough questioning in the US Congress at a hearing of the House energy and commerce committee.

Shares in BP closed up 3½p at 586½p.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

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