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The list of consultants who are working or have worked for Petrotechnical Resources Alaska (PRA) reads like the ARCO Alaska directory. It might be easier to ask who has not at one time worked with Tom Walsh and Chris Livesey at PRA.
Founded in 1997 by a group of five independent consultants, the company has over 115 affiliated geologists, geophysicists and petroleum engineers. The origin of PRA are people that left ARCO (and later BP and COP) and did not want to leave the state. Most of the individuals working through PRA have a bulk of their experience in Alaska, working in every basin in Alaska on both exploration and development projects.
“Our list of people is attractive to our clients,” says Tom. “At a trade show or on our website, people will look and say 'I know ten of those people and I respect them all.' We don’t typically recruit people. Word of mouth has been our most successful form of advertising,” finds Tom.
The origin of PRA are people that left ARCO (and later BP and COP) and did not want to leave the state.
Tom and his wife Chantal founded the company with Chet Paris, Bob Ravn and Doug Dickey. Their first contract was with Cathy Forrester at ARCO. A BP contract followed, and the company started growing from there. Initially, the company grew slowly and the other partners left. Chris joined when Chantal went back to work for ARCO as a full time employee about 1999.
They have created a business with very low overhead where PRA acts as the agency and the consultant keeps 82% of the invoice. “We operate PRA with two full-time administrative employees. PRA writes the one-page work order, paying the payroll and other taxes. Almost all of our employees are paid on the basis of receipts, ie the invoices we process on their behalf. I always say 99% of contracts are brought in by the individual working on the contract. Word of mouth and relationships remain the keys to our success,” says Tom.
Our list of people is attractive to our clients. At a trade show or on our website, people will look and say 'I know ten of those people and I respect them all.'
Tom and Chris were themselves never ARCO employees. Tom started with SOHIO in 1980. He came to Anchorage in 1984 and was on contract with BP until 1994. Kevin Frank is a geologist who was let go after COP took over. “I knew Kevin had a great reputation in the industry. I suggested he take time off and relax. When pursuing a career, you don’t get time to kick back and relax,” says Tom.
“The very next day, I called him from Hawaii where I was on vacation and said we had an opening on a drilling project, and that he could start right away…even though I stand firm on taking time off. Kevin accepted the wellsite geologist role and started work immediately. So much for my advice of taking a break,” laughed Tom.
Ben Ball and Chris Garlasco (both now living in Colorado) and Barb VanderWende (working from her home in Montana) all work on a project for PRA right now. Chris and Barb work remotely on permitting for a drilling project and Ben on conceptual facility design work. While Ben is not wishing to work a lot, Tom said he is motivated to keep him engaged as Ben is one of PRA’s few facilities people.
PRA employs many wellsite geologists that are two on two or two on and four off schedules. Quite a few folks work on the slope for PRA with contracts PRA has with Hillcorp, BP and COP, and PRA contracts them out to the operating companies. Jim Sallee and Steve Reusing are two notable ARCO alumni who have long histories as PRA wellsite geos post-ARCO careers.
A tradition for 18 years, Tom keeps the network going and the PRA family united with an annual Christmas party. Up to 100 people, including current employees and alumni, gather at Tom and Chantal’s house. It has become so anticipated that in 2015, there might have been more alumni than current consultants.
PRA’s community outreach includes a summer intern program for geoscientist and engineering students, mostly juniors from the Universities of Anchorage and Fairbanks. PRA also is closely linked with Habitat for Humanity. Each year, the company hires two construction management students and they work 40 hours a week as project assistants. PRA pays them and covers their workers comp and liability insurance. It is a successful program which Habitat for Humanity would like to replicate more broadly with other companies.
PRA’s community outreach includes a summer intern program for geoscientist and engineering students. PRA also is closely linked with Habitat for Humanity.
While the price of oil is marching its way back up, PRA looks for opportunities that are not tied to $70 oil such as Cook Inlet Gas and a hydrate research project on the slope which is funded by DOE and the Japanese Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation.
Tom has been doing a fair bit of project management and he is the principal in charge of the methane project. Most of his time is spent trying to find work for his consultants and he jokes that his highest priority is to put Chantal back to work. She finished her contract with BP at the end of 2015 and is ‘driving me nuts working out every day with her close friend Erin O’Brien-Authier, who is also an ARCO alumni, and current PRA employee’, he says.
Tom and Chantal enjoyed a two week trip down the Colorado River with ARCO alums, Dede Schwartz (and husband Paul) and Dave Hanson. “We were off the grid for 14 days, which was a first for me since starting PRA. I called the raft company and said I have a satellite phone and is there any service in the canyon. They strongly recommended for my own enjoyment and that of the other rafters, to leave my phone behind. I frantically got everything wrapped up, finishing calls as we were driving to the launch location. It was enlightening to see what a relief it is to go without a phone,” found Tom.
When he left BP, Tom recalls a person speaking at an exit session saying don’t think you will get a lot of free time if you go out on your own. He notes how true that has proven. “I recently told a young man who is considering his next career move that owning your own business is time consuming, but if successful you have the benefit of creating something of value.”
“I recently told a young man who is considering his next career move that owning your own business is time consuming, but if successful you have the benefit of creating something of value.”
"We all work hard to keep the company going and we have a lot of unbillable time. Running a business is not all glamor. You don’t know what is going to happen from one day to the next. The people we have met through PRA is what makes me most proud. And as my son Marshall commented, I am often holding meetings on the golf course. I tell him that is the right kind of job to have,” laughs Tom.
SOME OF PRA’S ARCO ALUMS, PAST AND PRESENT:
It was another stellar year at Kinley’s with more than 50 former ARCO alumni and spouses gathering for drinks, food and a chance to catch up. Each year, we have new members joining as the word spreads - this year's new members include Annie Bezilla, Carl Lundgren and Annie Nicolet. And members come from near and far: the Kruses who were at the December happy hour in Denver and are now back living in Alaska, and Jeanette and Wes Peirce and their three sons who live in The Woodlands were on their way to the airport later that night after an amazing vacation.
We were sorry to miss Bill and Brenna Patterson, who were in Anchorage one week later.
There was an individual with many a name tag (Mark Worcester – refer to the photo album!), and one who had us confused. It seems both Clif and James Posey worked for ARCO Alaska, and when we emailed Clif, we ended up with a new member: James. Clif is a wellsite geologist in San Angelo, Texas and James, who was at the happy hour, is currently in his third self-funded sabbatical.
I thought the ARCO Alumni Happy Hour was very well attended.
John Cologgi has been working part-time with Armstrong since they took over as the operator of the Nanushuk project from their partner Repsol. Repsol and privately held Armstrong recently reached an agreement to strategically re-align their interests in their Alaska North Slope exploration and development venture. John is working with a team of consultants reviewing the previous work completed by Repsol, responding to EIS questions from the Corps of Engineers and positioning the project for the next phase.
Gerry Suellentrop left Degolyer MacNaughton and joined Caelus Energy where he is working with ARCO Alumni Andy Bond and Greg Sanders. Andy and Lori did not make the happy hour as Andy was on a corporate fishing trip, but Gerry and Greg were at Kinley’s. Greg is working a reduced schedule at Caelus through year end and then looks forward to more golf and travel with his wife, Lisa who was sorry to miss the get together. Lisa continues to run her own State Farm Insurance agency in Anchorage, and insures many ARCO families.
Russ Doig, with our long term sponsor, GCI was there and shared that he thought the event was very well attended. Linda Petrie is still in the Facilities Group at COP and planning to work two more years. Other COP employees who attended included Emily Arrowsmith, Annie Bezilla, Dan Eck, Kathy Godsey, Renee Hannon, John Melvin, Louise Osborn, and Tina Suellentrop.
It was great to see old comrades.
Retirees Marcia Bandy and Jack Porter plan to stay in Anchorage, having decided that without the income tax it is the best place for them; Mark Worcester also retired and lives in Anchorage. Dan and Grace Kruse and Sally Chryst live in Big Lake and drove in for the evening. The Kruse’s son John finished his freshman year at University of Denver and is home with them for the summer, where they are pleased to be installing an upgraded kitchen.
It was great to see new faces including Kirk Allen who retired from COP, Ed and Michele Hendrickson, Carl Lundgren who is doing Resource Devlopment for BP Alaska, another of our event sponsors, is a new member on ARCO Alumni, as is Annie Nicolet who is working with CH2M Hill. Annie shared how it was ‘great to see old comrades’.
Also at the happy hour from BP Alaska were Richard Clausen who is a Process Engineer in projects and Scott Digert, who is working as Resource Manager for the Greater Prudhoe Bay and Fieldwide teams.
Becky Schumacher, who traditionally attends, was on vacation in Italy, and Bharet Jhaveri had moved South to Vancouver, Washington.
We thank our sponsors, Advancial, AWS, BP, GCI and PRA. While Janet Weiss was out of town and did not attend, her quote in Rigzone magazine is proven each time we host an ARCO get-together: “There is power in community. It’s very important to connect and make relationships.”
With 38 of our members sharing that they live in the UK, we wanted to see how many were with ARCO British Limited during their career and who ended up in the UK with other companies. Below we share some updates, and hope you will be inspired to log on and update what you are doing, and where you are living.
No surprise that a number of our members are employed by BP, including John Brame who is with BP Finance in London. John was last employed by AIOGC (ARCO Intl Oil and Gas Co.) in Indonesia immediately prior to joining BP. Subsequent to the acquisition of ARCO, John worked for BP in Indonesia, the UK, Egypt, Moscow and then back to the UK about 3 years ago. He tells us: “The great people in ARCO and the many friends from that time that I still keep in close contact with is what I will always remember.”
Ian Pigram shared that BP has gone through a period of “simplification” in the UK. Ian is in exploration where he moved after working the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan. “Since moving from ARCO British to BP, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of projects ranging from development to exploration, many with some enjoyably challenging technical aspects,” says Ian.
The technical capabiity of the folks here made multidisciplinary projects a superb learning experience.
Kate Mitchell logged on and shared that she has worked in BP’s Exploration group up until this summer and is based in Aberdeenshire. “After a couple of good years in Norway working on the mighty Valhall field 4D we thought we would try Scotland for a change. Prior to that I was in BP Exploration in Sunbury, UK, within the rock properties and seismic modelling team. We now have 2 small boys to keep John and I out of mischief. My hobbies include walking/ mountaineering/ mountain biking/ surfing and a bit of skiing...and getting the boys into that as well,” said Kate.
Mark O’Connor is working with BP in Sunbury looking after the Angola Region as the Process Safety Technical Authority as part of Safety and Operational Risk organisation. In his role, Mark works alongside the business to provide advice and scrutiny. Mark married in 2013; he and his wife Elizabeth enjoy exploring in their VW Campervan.
Of course, some of our members are working in the UK for other companies.
Mahmoud Manji lives in London and works for Exxon Mobil in commercial and business development. Mahmoud worked for BP prior to moving over to Exxon Mobil.
Matt Carolan joined Challenge Energy technical and commercial advisors in 2004 as Business Development Manager. Matt is based in Guildford.
I'm greatful for the time I spent at ARCO. It was a great place to work and I met my parnter, Steve Chastell, there. We are still together after 20 years!
Marie Jarvie tells us about her life after ARCO: “I worked for KBR, looking after the Finance function in ten of their worldwide offices. I visited to a lot of lovely places including Australia, Russia, Sweden, Azerbaijan and of course Houston! But, tiring of so much travel, I made my next move away from a 'Big American Company' to a small British one. I am now Finance Director at g3baxi partnership limited. It's an oil & gas consultancy company and is employee owned (a bit like John Lewis) so all the employees are highly motivated and it's like working in one big happy family."
Since leaving ARCO, Laurence Jackson had three foreign assignments with AGIP/ENI. The first was in Nigeria, the second was in Angola and the last posting was in Iraq. His time with AGIP/ENI left Laurie with an appreciation of Italian culture, a taste for their wine, a basic knowledge of the language, and a house in Italy. With the downturn in the oil industry, Laurie is currently working for a computer consultancy in Southern England.
Looking for a new opportunity
Many former ARCO and Vastar employees have had long, interesting careers and with the downturn, they remain interested in employment. John Davies is one of these people. Others who are interested in employment are indicating their availability using the ARCO search where you can search for people who are available.
John worked exploration, operations and formation evaluation with ARCO, joined Triton in 2000 to coordinate their appraisal operations of Ceiba and discoveries of Oveng, Okume, Elon and Ebano. When that drilling campaign was completed, John joined Nexen in Dallas to plan and coordinate geologic well operations and reservoir evaluation. When Nexen’s drilling program slowed, John became Exploration Team Lead for the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. John and his counterpart at Shell managed to convince their managements to firmly commit to a three well program in 2009. Three prior multi well drilling programs were abandoned after disappointing results on the first well. The first 2009 well, Antietam, an appraisal to the marginal Shiloh discovery, was dry. Luckily the commitment to continue the program led to the Appomattox discovery. John left Nexen during their re-organization and purchase by CNOOC. He joined ENI in Houston to continue focusing on exploration of the Pre-Miocene of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. John moved to the London to join Pam Morelos-Roths (ARCO Plano and Vastar) at New Age to work West Africa and Kurdistan projects. Due to the downturn, John is currently living outside of London and looking for new petroleum geologist positions. In his free time John meets other artists exploring museums, studios and galleries. John also enjoys walks in the Surrey Hills and on the Coast. John can be contacted at email@example.com
Back in the Good ‘Ol USA
While working at ARCO, Bryon McGregor was project finance manager (’98-’01). After leaving ARCO after the BP merger, Bryon joined E*TRADE in various positions, including Assistant Treasurer, Brokerage Treasurer and finally two years as International Treasurer in London. Shortly after those two years ended, he made the move back to the US.
Rob O’Connor worked in the Sunbury office with BP managing the Black Sea Exploration project until 2010 when he moved to Houston where he is currently BP's Canada Exploration Manager.
Yohan Johan Kusumanegara was with ARCO from 1994-1999 and then worked for Total in the UK. He is currently in Houston working for Hess and is also available for consulting.
Chris Worthington talks of keeping in touch with ARCO colleagues. Chris worked on the transfer of ARCO interests to BP, Tullow and ExxonMobil as a member of the Red Square team. He transitioned to Project Consultant advising ExxonMobil management on their Joint Venture (50/50 Shell/ExxonMobil) European projects in the North Sea, the Netherlands and Germany. Chris worked alongside Mahmoud Manji and Paul Hector who took up commercial roles within the JV team until he retired in 2009.
Chris is busy enjoying his 4 grandchildren develop into amazing people. He is also vice chair of the Wooburn Festival, enjoys mountain biking in the Chilterns (300-400 miles a month), travelling and pursuing many other activities and interests. Chris tells us he will still stay in touch with a few ARCO friends, two already mentioned and Martin Thurlow, John Knepler and Andy Humphreys to mention a few more. He tells us “John Knepler keeps me abreast of mutual friends and colleagues from the other side of the Atlantic.”
And Stephen Giles tells us: “Thanks to the clarity of strategic vision of BP in the late 90s in being very efficient in its string of acquisitions and subsequent integrations (aka redundancies), the decision to strike out on my own was an easy one. The long-term financials were neutral whether I stayed or went, and the non-corporate world was a more appetising challenge. After a couple of years as a fully engaged contractor, much of it outside the upstream business but using skills developed within it, I returned to the upstream world to build and lead an upstream division of a European utility. Then I moved on to the Middle East to work for UAE-owned energy companies, and back to Malaysia in 2009 (after 30 years away) to rebuild the local subsidiary of a well-known UK services company, struggling to respond to the unique cultural challenges.
Just when I am thinking about hanging up my gloves, an opportunity comes from nowhere to work on Norway's biggest discovery for 30 years.
"This discovery," continues Steve, may be the best reservoir in the oil patch ever! Thanks, ARCO, for the personal development opportunities. Thanks, BP, for the freedom.”
Jamie Robertson and David Nicklin spent a significant portion of their careers at ARCO as heads of large exploration groups. Jamie was at ARCO from 1975-2000, and David from 1981-1999. After ARCO, they both started their own companies. Then, in 2006, Jamie and David started a new company, Salt Creek Petroleum LLC, which takes non-operated working interests in conventional oil and gas exploration projects in onshore Texas. Salt Creek (named by one of David’s sons after a surfing beach in southern California) is the ongoing active company through which the ARCO alums now conduct oil and gas exploration.
What follows is a Q&A with Jamie about how Salt Creek Petroleum was formed, and what each of them brings to the table with this new venture.
Q: What did you and David do after ARCO?
A: David founded a company called Petroleum Development Associates, which pursued exploration opportunities in the UK North Sea, Spain and Indonesia and eventually became a public company (Serica Energy) in the UK and Canada. I founded Rannoch Petroleum LLC (named after the ancestral Scottish home of the Robertson clan), which provides petroleum consulting services to domestic and international companies.
David served in a consulting capacity as Executive Director of Exploration for Matador Resources Company from 2008 – 2015, and both of us are currently Special Advisors to the Matador Board of Directors.
Q: What has your approach been with Salt Creek Petroleum?
A: Our approach since the founding of Salt Creek has been to partner with mostly family-owned companies active in specific areas of onshore Texas where the families have an historic presence (and hence access and expertise particularly in oil and gas leasing in one or a few counties). We bring extra expert geoscience eyes to their prospective exploration projects, so these companies welcome Salt Creek as a partner. We have built these relationships over the past ten years to where virtually all our new projects are being done with past partners with whom we have done multiple exploration ventures.
While not our primary focus since we are mostly active explorers, we do occasional consulting for companies interested in reviews of their exploration portfolios (so long as the consulting does not conflict with Salt Creek’s activities or our advising of Matador Resources Company).
The ubiquity of Internet communications these days makes a partnership like ours easy to manage remotely.
Q: What unique expertise do each of you bring to your partnership?
A: David’s education focused on geology while mine focused on geological engineering and geophysics. These emphases have spilled over into our careers, bringing a complementary perspective to our partnership. That said, as heads of large exploration groups at ARCO, we both had to learn the same diversity of skills required to select and operate multidisciplinary projects.
A very important element of our backgrounds is that we have both been involved in and reviewed hundreds (it might be thousands) of exploration projects from all over the world, and that breadth of experience is invaluable in our most important current task – picking a few great exploration projects for Salt Creek to enter out of the hundreds that are available in onshore Texas.
As heads of large exploration groups at ARCO, we both learned the diversity of skills required to select and operate multidisciplinary projects.
Q: Where does Salt Creek Petroleum operate?
A: Salt Creek Petroleum operates out of Laguna Niguel, California, where David lives and Fort Worth, Texas where I live. The ubiquity of Internet communications these days makes a partnership like ours easy to manage remotely. We do get together face-to-face every month or two, but most of our business can be conducted by phone and email.
We asked David and Jamie what they do outside of their own work with Salt Creek Petroleum.
David still surfs regularly and tours the western U.S. with spouse Patricia and his camera. In fact, David has also had a hobby business since 2003 in fine art photography of the outdoors. His work can be viewed at photogeo.com. He has been a consistent exhibitor at the prestigious Laguna Festival of the Arts and has sold over four hundred pieces.
Our approach has been to partner with mostly family-owned companies active in specific areas of onshore Texas, where the families have a historic presence.
Jamie’s spouse Stella is still active in biomedical research as an advisor and investor in startup companies through an incubator called Tech Fort Worth, so Jamie and Stella travel both for her work and for fun (including a return trip eighteen months ago to Antarctica, where Jamie did his graduate geophysics work, to celebrate the centenary of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance voyage). There are five children in their 20s and 30s between their two families, but no spouses or grandchildren yet in the next generation. Should any grandchildren ever appear, that might be a good reason for them to glide more into retiring from oil and gas exploration, but that hasn’t happened yet.
ARCO talent is abundant and varied. And a number of companies reap the benefits.
Former ARCO employees, Jere Jay and Heiko Mueller, principal owners of INNEX, met in the early 90s while working projects in Turkey and the Middle East for ARCO International based in Plano.
Jere and Heiko joined forces to form INNEX around the time that ARCO was being purchased by BP. As Jere likes to say "It's all Heiko's fault. We had lunch one day and while he talked of ideas in Turkey and I discussed some ideas I had for projects in California, Heiko said "Why not throw our visa cards on the table and see what we can build?" that was the planning session that formed INNEX,” said Jere. He and Heiko are CEO and President of INNEX California. Other former ARCO employees that have worked or are working at INNEX include Jim Holland, Jim Doyle, Tom O’Brien, and Larry Morse. Chuck Vavra often adds his expertise to the ARCO mix. The company develops oil and gas reserves, primarily in California, but also in Oklahoma and Texas, and have also recently worked projects in Ohio, Indiana and Turkey.
“INNEX stands for INNovative EXploration, or INNovative EXploitation depending on the project or group you might be talking with,” explains Jere. “Most of our projects have existing production with significant exploitation/development scope and virtually all of them have some major upside with deeper exploration objectives (or shallower in one case!). The name INNEX is appropriate no matter what the project focus may be,” he says.
INNEX has focused on low-risk, missed pay opportunities near existing infrastructure.Jere Jay, INNEX
The company has been built by a small, motivated team of experienced, proven oil finders. “We've joked over the years that our recruitment strategy is to merely leave the front door wide open and see who joins us. If they are damn good, hard workers who are smarter than Heiko and me, we've invited them to stay. The strategy has worked well. We've assembled a small, effective core of world class talent,” said Jere.
INNEX started in 1999 with Heiko and Jere, joined by Tom O'Brien who had been Jere's supervisor at ARCO. The trio formed a business incubator for "start-up" oil and gas groups. The idea was to retain experts retiring from ARCO as well as some from Triton, Sun, Mobil, and other oil and gas companies. They found a supportive audience at the SMU Legacy Campus in Plano where unused office space provided a perfect spot to set up the Incubator. Eight different companies have worked at the location at various times and there are currently around 25 geoscience, engineering, research and economics professionals in the building.
The benefits of the incubator are that we have the same quality and breadth of experts up and down the hall that we worked with at ARCO.
“Currently there are 12 ex-ARCO staffers up and down the hall. The INNEX staff includes five ex-ARCO members including Tom O'Brien, Larry Morse who had extensive experience working and managing the ARCO operations at Prudhoe Bay before working for Enron in India, Jim Holland who handles all the drafting and data base needs, along with Heiko, and me,” said Jere. “We also have close ties with Jim Doyle who worked in Indonesia with ARCO and worked with us a number of years. Jim is still "just down the road" and available for consulting. We have continued to work with Dr. Chuck Vavra from ARCO’s reservoir research group, a valuable addition to the staff who evaluates our reservoirs from outcrops and well samples. Chuck is also invited to portfolio reviews, has taught schools, trained the staff, and is involved in special projects. Bonnie Jay, who has more than a few ties to ARCO, runs the business and land operations,” said Jere.
Early on, INNEX consulted while building its own portfolio base. Jere teaches an Industry training school called "From Seeps to the subsurface" utilizing several of California's billion-barrel outcropping, oil fields to serve as analogues for domestic and International project groups. This class helped introduce a number of companies to the scope of potential remaining to be exploited.
In 2005, INNEX purchased the Kettleman Middle Dome Oil field on the west side of the San Joaquin Basin from Chevron. This was a major opportunity with multiple stacked pays that were proven but under-developed on trend with billion barrel fields. "We were lucky" says Jere.
The major companies were focused overseas and had lost focus on their domestic portfolios. Our Kettleman project includes two producing shale reservoirs, which serve to source and seal 3,000'-5,000' of interbedded sand reservoirs at multiple levels from 900' to 13,000'
INNEX’s 2016 program involves redeveloping a shallow oil field with 20-34 gravity oil at depths shallower than 2,400' and developing their lease within the proven oil column from the billion-barrel Elk Hills oil field. Additionally, INNEX worked for years to get new, proprietary 3D data over a major unexplored structural trend and has defined exciting prospects at shallow depths beneath a series of shallow oil seeps. "We can map some extraordinary prospects beneath a deceptively simple outcrop belt. The projects have significant scope and are ready to drill. Our door is open for partners and investment,” said Jere.
Regarding the current business climate? "Well, I would just be lying if I said we were on top of the world but we are surviving and have a strong economic portfolio even with $35 oil and low gas prices. We haven't slowed down much at all. We've built our portfolio with conservative outlooks and expectations and we have a superb staff.
We're ready for an active drilling season in 2016 and beyond with a diverse portfolio to exploit.