At least 45 Ventura County oil industry jobs will be lost and the fate of more than 200 others is uncertain as a result of actions either planned or under consideration by two major petroleum firms.
The news comes as a blow to the county's stagnant oil industry, which has seen its payrolls reduced by more than one-third in the past decade.
Exxon Co. USA, the domestic arm of Exxon Corp., will eliminate 45 of the 125 positions at its production control offices in Thousand Oaks by Sept. 1. The move is part of a consolidation that will eliminate about 430 jobs nationwide.
Some of the planners, engineers and others affected by the consolidation will be offered a chance to transfer to Exxon USA headquarters in Houston, company spokesman Les Rogers reports. Others will be offered early retirement, he said, "but ultimately, I'm afraid, some will have to be laid off."
The move will leave 80 people working in the Exxon USA offices on Hillcrest Drive. The unit mostly administers offshore oil and gas production in the Santa Barbara Channel.
In the other development, Unocal Corp., which was founded in Santa Paula in 1890, said it has received three unsolicited offers for its oil and gas production properties in Ventura County and throughout California.
The company hasn't decided whether it will accept the offers and doesn't know whether any of its Ventura County employees would be affected, spokeswoman Janet McClintock says. Unocal, now based in Los Angeles, employs 245 people in Ventura County and 136 in Santa Barbara County.
"All of the potential buyers would need production personnel in Ventura County," McClintock said. "We assume it would be in their interest to continue with all or most of the Unocal people who are already there."
In addition to its division office on Knoll Drive in Ventura, Unocal operates seven offshore platforms in the region and has producing fields in the east county.
"Production properties in Ventura County and in California in general are mostly mature," McClintock said. "If the properties are sold, we might use the proceeds for exploration and production in southeast Asia and the Gulf of Mexico."
Oil industry employment in Ventura County has been lackluster in recent years. It fell from 3,300 in 1985 to 2,200 in 1990 and 2,100 in 1993, according to the state Employment Development Department.
In addition to Exxon, such major producers as Texaco, Chevron, Mobil and Shell have either shut down or pared their activities in the county since the early 1980s.