BREA — Struggling to cope with depressed world crude prices, Unocal Corp. said Thursday that it would shrink its Orange County work force by as much as 7% over the next six months.
The international petroleum and chemical products giant said that "changing market conditions" have forced it to scale down its research and development facilities in Brea and Anaheim, a move that will eliminate between 50 and 100 jobs.
The job cuts are part of an overall corporate restructuring plan necessitated by an ongoing slump in oil prices that is not expected to change soon, said spokeswoman Janet McClintock.
"The purpose of this is not to save 'X' amount of dollars this year, but to permanently realign the corporation," McClintock said. "We are constantly looking at how we do business and accepting change and adapting to it."
McClintock said that those affected by the impending job cuts are employed at two Brea locations where the company's laboratory facilities are located, and its Anaheim plant, where it houses a computer system that studies oil exploration data.
Unocal has 1,100 workers in Brea and 170 in Anaheim. The company also has about 100 additional workers scattered throughout Orange County who will not be affected by the layoffs. Computer operators, laboratory technicians and administrative personnel will make up the bulk of the job eliminations.
Some of those employees study seismic data to determine rock structure and to locate possible underground oil reserves, while those in the laboratories study chemicals and data related to oil exploration and refining.
McClintock said she did not know how many of the eliminated positions would result in layoffs. But she added that beginning next month the company will offer some workers new positions elsewhere in the company.
"We don't have that kind of information yet," McClintock said. "There are still a lot unknowns that we still have not identified."
As part of its restructuring, Unocal will outsource, or contract to outside firms, the seismic and laboratory work currently done by its workers in Brea and Anaheim.
"Changing market conditions make outsourcing an attractive economic alternative," Charles R. Williamson, head of Unocal's Fred L. Hartley Research Center in Brea, said in a prepared statement.
The company will continue to study geochemistry, chemistry production, drilling techniques and seismic technology at the plant, but at a smaller scale.
Unocal stock closed at $28 a share on the New York Stock Exchange, unchanged from Wednesday.