January 21, 1998 --- Vol. 4, No. 5January 1998

Fishing, downstream interests form Alaska independent oil and gas company

John Winther told PNA Jan. 19 that he is setting up a company, Petersburg Energy LLC, to invest in the development of the North Slope acreage he picked up this past November at state oil and gas lease sale 86.

Winther, a Petersburg-based fisherman, bid almost a million dollars at the Central Beaufort Sea lease sale, taking three tracts away from fellow bidders including ARCO Alaska Inc. and BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.

Formation of Petersburg Energy LLC will be final this month, Winther said, and once the company is established, the leases will be transferred to it. Winther is president of the company, which is located in Petersburg.

The company’s board of directors, who hold equity stakes in the venture, include Winther, Bart Eaton, secretary-treasurer (vice president of Alaska operations for Trident Seafoods, a U.S.-owned company out of Seattle), Dale Lindsey, vice president (CEO and president of Harbor Enterprises Inc. in Seward) and Erik Opstad (professional geologist and president of Polar Energy Corp. in Anchorage).

Other principals include Jerry Kennedy, partner with Winther and Eaton on two longliners, and Winther’s brothers Rick Winther and Dale Winther of Fairbanks. Dale Winther works in construction; Rick Winther owns Alaska Salmon Bake, Palace Saloon and Esther Gold Camp.

The intent is to set up as an independent oil and gas operator, board member Opstad told PNA. “The first phase of it as it evolved was to acquire North Slope acreage with reserves,” he said.

Not another “lease-flipping” exercise

“It’s an investment in ourselves, really,” Opstad said. “And we thought the time was right. And the lease sale provided the opportunity to acquire some acreage that met our needs.” It’s not another “lease-flipping” exercise, he said. The company intends to participate in development, including participation in units.

Participation in development as minority interest owners was “our goal from the very beginning,” Winther said.

Opstad said one lease was immediately adjacent to the BP-operated Milne Point unit, one lease was north of the ARCO-operated Kuukpik unit and the third lease was south of the Liberty prospect BP is now developing.

“As time goes on,” Opstad said, “the company will look at other opportunities which would certainly include drilling. … We’ve all had oil and gas ventures together in the Lower 48. So there’s some past relationship. And they’ve been successful ventures.”

“The intent of this company is to keep the profits in Alaska,” Winther said. “And that to us is a real important goal. Dale Lindsey, me and my brothers, were all born in Alaska,” he said.

This business is based in Alaska – almost everyone has other business, based in Alaska, Winther said. Even Eaton, now based in Seattle, used to live in Kodiak.

A third-generation Alaskan, Winther was born in Fairbanks. His grandparents on both sides were involved, one way or another, he said, in the Gold Rush. He had oil leases in the Kandik area (on the Canadian border) with his Fairbanks family in the late 1960s. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he was a working interest partner in a New Mexico field. His interest in oil didn’t wane. “I’ve always paid attention to it,” he said.

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