Hilcorp Energy Co., which has evolved into a major operator on Alaska’s North Slope after BP’s departure from the state, is now set to take over operations of a field run by another global giant, Exxon Mobil.

Big oil companies like BP and Exxon Mobil have stepped back from Alaska as activity in the state has dwindled, paving the way for smaller independent operators. Crude production in Alaska last year fell to 448,000 bbl/d, the lowest since 1976.

Hilcorp is set to take charge of the Point Thomson Field, which will still be majority owned by Exxon Mobil. Point Thomson, the easternmost producing North Slope Field, languished for decades, with the state in past years nearly nullifying leases until a deal was struck for production of liquid gas condensates.

Exxon Mobil signed an agreement with Hilcorp to transfer the Point Thomson operator position, said Exxon spokeswoman Julie King, with the change in operatorship expected by early 2022. Exxon will continue to own more than 60% of Point Thomson, King said.

Even though Exxon Mobil holds major shares of Prudhoe Bay and other Alaska oil assets, Point Thomson, located about 60 miles (96 km) east of Prudhoe Bay, is the only field the company has operated.

Texas-based independent Hilcorp acquired all of BP’s Alaska assets in 2014 and 2020, including its 32% share of Point Thomson and 26% share of Prudhoe Bay. Hilcorp last year replaced BP as Prudhoe Bay’s operator.

“Hilcorp is excited about our continued commitment to Alaska. We welcome the opportunity to apply our proven record of enhancing legacy conventional assets to Point Thomson,” Luke Saugier, senior vice president for Alaska, said in a statement on Oct. 22.

Point Thomson is considered critical for any commercialization of North Slope natural gas. It holds about 8 Tcf of known reserves, roughly a quarter of the North Slope total known reserves. Alaska's marketed natural gas production was about 900 MMcf/d in 2020, down from a record 1.5 Bcf/d in 1994.

NGL production at the field averaged about 8,300 bbl/d between January 2020 to July 2021, according to Exxon Mobil data submitted to the state.