Changing of local guard at Exxon, BP

The winds of change continue to blow through the executive ranks of the resources industry, with ExxonMobil and BP appointing new Australian leadership.

The winds of change continue to blow through the executive ranks of the resources industry, with ExxonMobil and BP appointing new Australian leadership.

Exxon said on Monday that Richard Owen would become chairman of its Australian operations based in Melbourne. He will replace John Dashwood, who will return to the US to become vice-president of Exxon's marketing division for the Americas.

Mr Owen has been with Exxon for more than 30 years and studied at the University of Sydney before joining Exxon's subsidiary, Esso, in its Bass Strait oil and gas operations.

His appointment came just hours before BP said Briton Andy Holmes, 51, would replace Paul Waterman as president of the company's Australasian operations. Mr Waterman will return to Britain where he will lead BP's global lubricants business.

Both appointments come just weeks after Royal Dutch Shell said its Australian boss, Ann Pickard, would be replaced by Andrew Smith. The past two years have seen massive change across the industry, with new leaders at BHP Billiton, Woodside Petroleum, Rio Tinto, Anglo American, Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining to name a few.

Mr Owen will take over Exxon's local division as it attempts to build vast new growth in West Australian LNG, while managing decline in ageing assets on the east coast.

Exxon has exposure to the traditional Bass Strait oil and gasfields, as well as a fuel refinery at Altona in Melbourne's west. The long-expected decision over whether to close the Altona refinery could now fall within Mr Owen's tenure.

On the growth side Exxon is developing the Scarborough LNG project off WA in partnership with BHP Billiton, and holds a minority stake in the Gorgon gas project being developed by Chevron. Exxon has also taken a small exposure to a potential shale gas industry in Gippsland, east of Melbourne

Mr Dashwood kept a relatively low profile during his time in Melbourne, and most recently made headlines in October when he lamented the quality of debate around the shale and coal seam gas industries.

"The quality of some of the public debate does little to appease anxiety ... experts are usually left right out of it," he told a lunch in Melbourne.

"If you asked me my opinion on how to land an A380 Airbus, I would quickly defer to an expert."

BP also has exposure to the Gorgon project, the Browse LNG project, and North West Shelf joint venture. It is exploring for petroleum products in the Great Australian Bight and also owns refineries in WA and Queensland.

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