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BP Plans to Cut About 4,000 Jobs as Oil Prices Tumble

By Sarah

The persistent plunge in oil prices has translated into a new round of industry job cuts.

The British oil giant BP is cutting some 4,000 of the approximately 24,000 jobs in exploration and production over the next two years amid sharp drops in the price of crude. That would be in addition to about 4,000 jobs that the company cut last year, when it trimmed its work force to about 80,000.

The cuts in BP's upstream business globally will include the loss of some 600 jobs in the North Sea.

“We have to make sure we have a competitive and sustainable business,” David Nicholas, a company spokesman, said by telephone. “External market conditions are getting tougher.”

After oil prices began dropping in 2014, BP was among the companies warning that the price plunge could be deep and sustained. After falling about one-third last year, prices are down an additional 15 percent in the first 12 days of 2016.

The cost-cutting announced Tuesday comes as the price of oil dropped to a 12 year-low near $31 a barrel. Part of the decline is due to concern over a drop in demand in China, which is depressing commodity prices worldwide.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, was 3.3 percent lower at $30.50 a barrel in afternoon trading on Tuesday. West Texas intermediate, the American benchmark, dropped 4.3 percent, to $30.05; at one point on Tuesday, it fell below $30 for the first time since 2003.

An estimated 250,000 oil industry jobs have been lost worldwide since the long price decline began.

Royal Dutch Shell, BP’s biggest European rival, cut 7,500 jobs last year. Jonathan French, a Shell spokesman, said that if his company’s acquisition of the BG Group, a producer of oil and natural gas based in Reading, England, was completed in the coming weeks as expected, an additional 2,800 jobs would most likely be eliminated across the two companies.

Some analysts expect the price slide to continue as there is no sign that perceptions of oversupply will ease and because of factors like the rise of the dollar, which puts pressure on the prices of commodities, including oil.

“In an oversupplied market, there is no intrinsic value for crude oil,” analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote in a note to clients on Monday. Assuming continued dollar appreciation, “$20-to-$25 oil price scenarios are possible simply due to currency,” they wrote.

BP did not specify where the job cuts would come from. But employees in Scotland, where BP has operations in the North Sea, said they had been told that 600 full-time and contractor jobs would be cut there over the next two years.

When oil was selling at about $100 a barrel, companies complained about high costs and about marginal profitability in the North Sea. Even though companies have been cutting expenses, current prices are likely to push them into making deeper cuts or considering shutting some fields.

BP has sought to reduce the size of its staff in recent years as a response to lower oil and gas prices, as well as to the sales of oil and gas fields and other assets to raise money after its Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010.

Mr. Nicholas said the job reductions would not halt BP’s Clair Ridge and Quad 204 partnerships in waters north of Scotland. Once developments are well underway, it is very difficult to shut them down.

BP’s operations in Alaska, Angola, Azerbaijan and the Gulf of Mexico are also considered possible areas for job cuts.

 Company officials began notifying employees of the action in town hall meetings in Scotland.

Mark Thomas, regional president for BP North Sea, says in a statement that because of toughening market conditions "we need to take specific steps to ensure our business remains competitive and robust."

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