(Adds other management changes, background on merging of units)
By Erwin Seba
Dec 1 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp is merging its refining and marketing divisions to boost profits from its downstream businesses, the first major restructuring under Chief Executive Darren Woods.
Neil Chapman, the head of its global chemicals operations, was named to the company's management committee, a board-elected panel that typically serves as a stepping stone for future chief executives, Exxon said on Friday.
Chapman, 55, joins CEO Woods and four other senior vice presidents on the committee, which oversees the company's global operations. The president of ExxonMobil Chemical Co also was promoted to corporate senior vice president.
The merger of the world's largest publicly-traded oil producer's refining and marketing operations will take place in the first quarter, the company said.
Bryan Milton, 53, president of Exxon's fuels, lubricants & specialties marketing business, was named president of the new ExxonMobil Fuels & Lubricants Co effective Jan. 1.
Dennis Wascom, president of Exxon's refining and supply subsidiary, will become vice president of operational excellence, safety, security, health and environment, said Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri.
Woods took over the top job in January after former chief Rex Tillerson resigned to become U.S. secretary of state.
The merging of refining, lubricants and marketing is the first major move by Woods since replacing Tillerson and is in the company's downstream operations, which he used to lead before taking over as CEO.
The reorganization aims to squeeze more profits from the fuel and lubricant businesses as the company works to improve its exploration and production operation, which have struggled since 2014 to adjust to lower oil and gas prices.
The company's downstream sector has grown in prominence since Woods took over leadership of Exxon.
The changes come as Exxon expands its refining division. The company is investing $20 billion through 2022 to expand its chemical and oil refining plants on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The refining and chemicals arms contributed more than $4.2 billion apiece to 2016 earnings, compared with a $196 million profit from exploration and production. Last year's results were affected by sharply lower crude prices. (Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Andrew Hay)