Paul Ebdale, CEO, Mitra Energy
13 January 2016
What are your strategic priorities and growth targets for the next 12-24 months?
Our current focus at Mitra is on getting to first production with the gas discoveries that have been made in the Malay Basin in Vietnam. Of the three fields, we expected to bring two onstream in 2018-19, when there will be significant capacity in the existing pipeline. We’ll be selling gas for a good fixed price unlinked to oil. We are making good progress on this pathway in partnership with Petrovietnam and have completed our Outline Development Plans for Prime Ministerial approval. On the exploration front, we’re looking forward to the drilling by Operator TOTAL of the high impact fully-carried Halcon well in Philippines block SC 56, where we have already discovered the Dabakan and Palendag fields. We’re also looking to exploit the current depressed E&P sector to grow the business through the pursuit of selective, value accretive M&A opportunities.
Where do you see the greatest opportunity in the O&G market and how are you positioned to capture this opportunity?
Obviously this is a challenging time for the industry, but it is also a time of great opportunities. A long period of high price led to complacencies and high costs in the business and these are now being swept away. Reduction in capital costs mean for example that fields such as those we are developing in Vietnam can be brought onstream with more attractive costs and returns. Accessing good people is also far easier than it was just a year ago. Finally, we see that many companies are far more open to conversations around asset trades and possible corporate M&A than previously, because they have to be.
What do you foresee as the greatest challenge to our industry's future growth?
Access to capital! Investors are bruised from the brutal downturn in the commodity cycle and it may take time for sentiment to return. That said, there are increasing signs that some groups are now seeing the value in the sector and are prepared to selectively invest.
These are tough market conditions with depressed oil prices and global reductions in capex and workforce, what measures and practices are you putting in place to adapt to this new (but not unknown) working environment?
Like everyone, we have had to look extremely closely at all aspects of our business to manage costs and we have taken some of the pain that the industry is generally experiencing. As a debt-free, pre-production company however, the downturn brings a lot of opportunity in terms of reduced costs for the activities we need to carry out – hence our challenge is to deploy funds as efficiently and effectively as possible and take advantage of current conditions before the cycle turns.
If you could wave a magic wand over the global industry, what would you change and why?
I don’t believe in magic wands!
How would you describe your company in once sentence to a new investor/client?
Mitra is a pure-play SE Asia gas company, focussed on delivering to premium-priced high demand markets.
How did you come to be in the O&G industry?
It was better than my first job, stacking shelves at Tesco. So I went to Cardiff to study Geophysics, accepted a role with Saudi Aramco, went on to spend 12 years at Conoco and a further 8 at Hess before founding Mitra in 2005.
What businessman/women do you admire and why?
Ms Mee Kim, founder and owner of CEO Suites – she built a magnificently successful business from scratch, against the odds and with style.
What is your proudest work-related achievement to date?
Floating Mitra during the first half of the year last year, with the oil price collapsing around us and investors running for the hills was a big achievement. It was painful, but we came through the process stronger, re-capitalised and debt-free.
What was the wisest advice you received from a mentor?
“Choose carefully what advise you listen to”
What advice would you pass onto a recent graduate embarking on a career in O&G?
Take a Gap Year!
How and where do you prefer to spend your spare time?
Despite the extensive travel this job entails, I still enjoy travelling around the Asia region and touring its cultural highlights, particularly temples.
What is your all-time favourite book?
Memoirs of a Geisha
What is you all-time favourite film?
Ratatouille – again, built a magnificently successful business from scratch, against the odds, though perhaps with a bit less style than Mee Kim.
What three items would you take with you to a desert island?
A fully equipped and operational Six Senses hotel
Live access to all Bolton Wanderers’ games
Sun tan lotion, factor 100
About Paul Ebdale
Paul is founder and CEO of Mitra Energy Inc., a pure play company focussed on finding and developing gas in SE Asia. He trained as a geophysicist in the University of Wales at Cardiff before starting work with Saudi Aramco. After 11 years with Conoco in a variety of positions in the UK, Egypt and Indonesia, Paul joined Hess in 1996. There he was instrumental in building that company’s exploration and appraisal business in SE Asia, leading to a number of commercial developments in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. In 2005, he stepped out to set up Mitra Energy, which rapidly developed to become one of the most active players in the region, whose accomplishments include a number of commercial gas finds in Philippines and Vietnam. Paul is a famed Bolton Wanderers fan who has lived in this region now for more than 22 years.