Lingo plans Australasian EOR assault

THERE'S more to the story of Brad Lingo's arrival at Elk Petroleum yesterday than a simple enhanced oil recovery play in Wyoming, because as Lingo told Energy News Australia has been left behind in the enhanced oil recovery (EOR) space – and he wants to change that.
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Haydn Black

Reporter

Lingo, who only starts with Elk tomorrow, said the long troubled company has good assets in the US, and is a chance to start with a clean slate, and to replicate his successes at Cooper Basin player Drillsearch Energy, eventually bringing the junior's in-house EOR experience to Australia.

Elk, he says, just needs a little love and attention, after years of setbacks and delays, cashflow issues and legal issues with its partner, Denbury Resources.

"It just has really great underlying assets," Lingo said.

"People forget, but Drillsearch only had 1.1 million barrels of 2P reserves when I joined, while and Elk has 3-5MMbbl 2P reserves in development, and the Singleton Unit has another 2-3MMbbl.

"You add all that up and in 2P-2C reserves it is almost as much as Drillsearch today, although it is not in production yet.

"I have been in this game for 30 years, and what has always excited me is identifying struggling companies with good underlying assets that just need good management, and a lot of that good management just comes down to focus and good execution."

With focus and renewed vigour Lingo hopes Elk can finally achieved its long-held goal of becoming a leading EOR oil producer.

Wyoming and Nebraska are places Elk can get on its feet, but Lingo is looking further south, hoping to bring the emerging techniques involved in improved oil recovery (IOR) and EOR, which are being refined by new class of company in the US to revolutionise Australia, where IOR/EOR is at best an afterthought.

"It's almost unheard of in Australia, but it isn't because of geology," he explained.

"There are a lot of underlying reasons why it historically hasn't been at the top of anyone's list, but the opportunity exists to bring the knowledge and experience from the US and Canada to Australasia."

EOR has been used on Barrow Island, Western Australia, for some time … and that's about it.

Santos has recognised the opportunity in its Cooper-Eromanga Basin fields, but it never had the corporate drive and attention to make it a priority.

"If you called up (Santos managing director) David Knox and asked him what his top five priorities were, even in the Cooper, it wouldn't be a priority, and if you don't make it a priority you don't invest in the people or spend the money to do something that is profitable at low oil prices," Lingo said.

He wants Elk to change that.

Elk's Grieve EOR project will make money at a $US40/bbl oil price and chemical EOR, which was studied by Elk when the availability of CO2 seemed unlikely, can work at just US$20/bbl - depending on the asset.

"Once you chose the right assets, because it won't work for everything, it is pretty low risk in terms of technical and commercial execution, and part of that is understanding how to look at those assets, and what the ingredients are that you need to pull together to run a successful project," he said.

Over the past decade Elk has developed the experience to identify the best types of fields that suit IOR (improved oil recovery)/EOR, which is what Lingo sees as the junior's competitive edge.

As a rule of thumb by bringing IOR/EOR to Australia fields should be able to double the amount of oil recovered from a field after the primary recovery phase.

Better still, secondary recovery removes the exploration risk in developing oil production, and if the US experience holds true will enable Elk to partner with the owners of depleted or late-life field and build a good, long-term, dividend paying business.

Lingo thinks CO2 flood might be the way to go in Australia, given the number of high CO2 fields in areas like the Cooper Basin, while NZ has large natural and man-made CO2 sources and Indonesia has some of the highest CO2 fields in the world.

"Elk wants to be a company that just doesn't talk about this, we want to do it, and we will have the real world experience of having done it in the US," he said.

Lingo said he was first attracted to Elk's long-term business plan for EOR at the Grieve field in Wyoming, and he's keen to help to bed its funding issues, settle the legal issues with Denbury that should see the US company sell out of the JV by November, and finally take Grieve to first oil in 2017.

The Muddy Formation is re-pressurising as expected, and the company is set to enjoy lower oil field construction costs for the surface facilities that still need to be built.

He has already had discussions with good oil field operators in the US and possible financiers who are keen to get involved in the company.

His goal with Elk is to take a company from one whose wheels have been spinning on the gravel to one that finally has traction.

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