Chesapeake Energy Corp has offered buyouts to 275 employees as part of the U.S. oil and gas company's effort to cut costs amid persistent low natural gas prices and heavy debt.

Although Chesapeake is increasing its output of more valuable crude oil from U.S. shale formations, the bulk of its production is natural gas.

While gas prices have recovered a bit, "the sustained low natural gas price environment we have seen will have an effect on the levels of activity in our industry and at Chesapeake for some time to come," Chesapeake attorney Henry Hood said in an email to announce the program.

Hood's email was first posted on the Oklahoma City blog, The Lost Ogle.

The buyout program is aimed at longer-term employees and is entirely voluntary, the company said in a statement on its website. Chesapeake has about 12,600 employees.

After years of spending heavily on oil and gas properties in shale formations, Chesapeake's debt has swelled to $16 billion. Under pressure from large investors, including Carl Icahn, Chesapeake has said it will reduce its debt to $9.5 billion in early 2013.

Shares of Chesapeake fell 2 cents to $16.66 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.