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Oil exec’s departure muddies future of North Slope project

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The departure of an oil company executive has raised questions about the timeline of a major project on Alaska’s North Slope.

Keiran Wulff resigned as managing director of Oil Search due to a worsening medical issue that has also come during a whistleblower complaint about his behavior, the company’s chairperson, Rick Lee, said during a call with financial analysts Monday.

Wulff had directed Oil Search’s Pikka project for the last three years, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The New Guinea-based company has been working with Repsol, a Spanish company, to develop Pikka, which is located on state land east of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the major ConocoPhillips’ Willow project.

Oil Search and Repsol estimate Pikka could produce 80,000 barrels of oil a day in the first phase of development in 2025.

Oil Search was expected to determine by the end of 2021 whether to commit funding to the multibillion-dollar project.

“If the market has felt that that was the case in the past, it’s certainly not the case today,” Lee said.

There is now no specific date for when the company will make a final decision on whether to fund the project, he told analysts.

Oil Search and Repsol need to agree with investors on an appropriate level of funding and risk for Pikka, he said, adding that the company has the same level of passion for it as Wulff did.

“For us, it’s very much a matter of how and when we fund this project going forward,” he said.

A whistleblower complaint filed last month prompted the company to begin an internal investigation in Wulff’s behavior, Lee said.

“The board entered into discussions with Dr. Wulff following the receipt of recent concerns and complaints about his behavior,” Lee said. “In (the) view of the board, this unacceptable behavior was inconsistent with the standards required under the company’s code of conduct.”

A medical condition that has worsened prompted Wulff’s resignation, Lee said. No other details on the medical condition were released.

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