Blakeley on hunt for an elusive gem with Jadestone
Ambitious boss of independent builds on extensive experience he gained with Talisman Energy in Asia-Pacific region and North Sea
Head-to-Head interview with Amanda Battersby, Upstream
1 Dec 2017 00:00 GMT
Jadestone Energy chief executive Paul Blakeley is clear about his mission — spearheading the Singapore-headquartered independent to become the same regional success story he achieved with Talisman Energy in the Asia-Pacific region, and earlier in the North Sea too.
Jadestone’s existing portfolio includes the wholly-owned producing Stag oilfield off Australia, a half share in the producing Ogan Komering onshore block in South Sumatra, Indonesia, two gas fields set for development in Vietnam, and exploration assets in Vietnam and the Philippines.
The company, which last December changed its name from Mitra Energy, has ambitions to acquire more assets in the region and the company will consider both onshore and offshore opportunities, “but not deep-water”, says Blakeley.
He notes that many players, including industry heavyweights, have started to rationalise their portfolios, while some US independents have retreated from South-East Asian E&P for reasons such as balance sheet pressure, wanting to focus on unconventionals and, in some cases, even pressure from activist investors.
“That leaves the field wide open,” Blakeley says.
“What we really want to do — and it’s not rocket science, or clever or new — is to fill that space that I think is increasingly left open for a mid-size capability… A company with the ability to operate large fields developed by the majors but bringing additional skills in mature field asset management — entrepreneurial, lean on process, low-cost and efficient — and excited by the small add-on things that create a lot of incremental value,” Blakeley says.
“The opportunity to pursue these sorts of things is what brought the team at Jadestone together.
“It’s no surprise that much of our technical and management team has come from Talisman. We’re all committed to replicating the sort of success we built in the region over the past 10 years,” he says.
“It would be cool for us to just keep adding small chunks of 3 million or 5 million barrels to our reserves base” and to keep repeating this.
“This is activity that doesn’t move the needle for the majors, but would work really well for us,” Blakeley confides.
In March, Jadestone completed the US$5.8 million purchase of Repsol’s 50% stake in the Ogan Komering block in Indonesia — Repsol itself having acquired the asset along with its takeover of Talisman. Blakeley and his team know this asset well from their days at the Canadian independent.
The block is home to three gas discoveries made by Talisman — Bandar Agung, Jantung Baru and North Meraksa — which were not commercially viable to develop given that the existing contract term expires in February 2018.
The Indonesian government has awarded the expiring block to Pertamina, and Jadestone is hoping to soon sign a new gross split production contract for the asset with the national oil company. It would then be full steam ahead to develop the trio of gas finds.
Another boost to Jadestone’s production will come from exploiting the wholly-owned Nam Du and U Minh shallow-water gas discoveries off southern Vietnam.
The intention is to take a final investment decision in 2018 or 2019, with production start-up in 2021.
“We have submitted an outline development plan for a joint development, we’ve got strong support from PetroVietnam and the government, and I think that this is a very exciting project.”
However, Blakeley explains that the road from project sanction to first gas in Vietnam may take longer than in other countries.
“It’s not a one-stop shop like in Malaysia with Petronas, and in Vietnam all key decisions go to the Prime Minister, having been vetted and approved by all departments including the Ministry of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry,” he says.
“It takes time.”
Blakeley holds a BSc (Hons) in geology and chemistry from Bedford College, University of London.
From university he started out as a wellsite engineer and geologist with Schlumberger before working for Shell as an operations engineer.
This stint of nearly three years with the Anglo-Dutch supermajor led to a position as a drilling superintendent with Sun Oil and subsequently Blakeley spent a decade as an operations manager with Arco.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been actively involved at the sharp end in most aspects of the upstream business, and ultimately I think it makes for better decision-making in leadership roles and makes for a more engaged leadership style,” he says.
Blakeley left Arco in December 1994 to join Talisman Energy as a senior vice president, accountable for the company’s North Sea business.
Under his leadership, Talisman — via asset enhancement as well as mergers and acquisitions — became the UK North Sea’s second-largest operator, with production of 160,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, generating more than US$1 billion in annual free cash flow.
About 12 years ago, Blakeley then came to Asia to run Talisman’s regional business and create the same value growth story.
In 2011, he moved to Singapore, which is also home to the youngest three of his five children, while the eldest two are at university in Australia.
“I spend a lot of time chasing the younger sons round soccer fields and rugby fields, which is great fun,” Blakeley says.
He adds that he barely has time to read these days, while his music taste “is dictated by my teenage daughter”.
Blakeley has been officially recognised for his services to the oil and gas industry. In 2002 he was conferred an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.