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Vol. 12, No. 15 Week of April 15, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Oil Patch Insider

Agrium takes first gas; Savant hires O’Keefe, looking for more exploration plays; Zimmerman resigns from Storm Cat

Agrium’s Alaska spokeswoman Lisa Parker told Petroleum News April 11 that the company’s Nikiski fertilizer facility received its first natural gas feedstock April 10 and will be back in production in about a week.

Agrium, which closed the facility Oct. 23 because of projected tight winter gas supplies from the Cook Inlet basin, did not lay off any of its 150 Alaska employees during the five-month shutdown.

“We have a highly talented, skilled workforce,” Parker said. “The company recognized their value” and elected not to lay off any employees.

—Kay Cashman

Savant hires F.X. O’Keefe, looking for more exploration plays

The former head of BP Exploration (Alaska)’s exploration department — the last time it had one in the state — is back. Independent Savant Alaska has hired F.X. O’Keefe as its director of business development.

According to Savant COO and Executive Vice President Greg Vigil, O’Keefe is “primarily responsible for advancing the company’s growth platform in Alaska.”

He said O’Keefe is also charged with furthering Savant’s relationship with various governmental bodies and agencies.

Vigil, an engineer who retired from BP Exploration (Alaska) in 1992, heads up Savant’s Alaska operations from its headquarters in Denver, which is where O’Keefe will also be based.

From March 2006 to present O’Keefe worked as an independent geologist (FXploration, llc) focused on unconventional resource plays in the Rockies and Mid-continent where he did “a combination of deal screening for a group of E&P companies, prospect generation, and acquisition evaluations for a variety of clients.”

When he left BP in 2002, O’Keefe went to work for Western Gas Resources in Denver as manager of exploration and acquisition, responsible for the company’s new ventures strategy development and implementation in the Rocky Mountain region. Last year, a few months before O’Keefe left the company, Anadarko Petroleum purchased Western Gas.

Savant, a closely held limited liability company and an affiliate of Denver-based Shaw Resources, was in an unusual position for a small independent when it leased its first Alaska tracts in 2006, in that, according to its President Patterson Shaw, the company was “fully capitalized to go forward” with exploration.

It had hoped to drill its Beaufort Sea Kupcake exploration prospect during the current winter drilling season, but was unable to secure a drill rig, so postponed drilling until the winter of 2007-08.

Vigil told Petroleum News April 12 that Savant is “finalizing permitting at Kupcake and expects to have the entire package complete and in hand by mid-summer.”

He also said that in addition to Kupcake, Savant is “expanding our efforts to capture additional exploration targets and marginal barrel plays. As a small independent we feel there are several niche opportunities that are complementary to our low cost structure and technical strengths. We seek to develop both organic entries and industry partnerships via joint ventures, farm-ins and small acquisitions.”

The seven leases picked up by Patterson Shaw (and later transferred to Savant) at the March 1, 2006, State of Alaska areawide lease sale, cost the company a total of $1.465 million and are east of Prudhoe Bay, extending east towards BP’s offshore-onshore Badami oil field along the Mikkelsen Bay fault zone. The Kupcake prospect is adjacent to BP’s 130 million barrel offshore Liberty prospect.

Kupcake No. 1, Savant has said, will be approximately 8,000 feet west of the Liberty No. 1 discovery well in Section 29, T11N, R18E, UM.

—Kay Cashman

Zimmerman resigns from Storm Cat

Storm Cat Energy has lost its top cat.

J. Scott Zimmerman, 50, resigned as president and CEO April 9 after taking a month-long leave of absence. Zimmerman, who had been at Storm Cat for three years, remains on the company’s board. He’s been active in coalbed methane extraction for more than a quarter of a century.

Company executives took pains to emphasize when the leave was announced March 12 that it was “not related to any operational or financial issues with the company nor the result of a disagreement with the board of directors over the strategic direction of the company.” According to the April 9 announcement, Zimmerman resigned to “pursue new challenges and opportunities.”

For now, Keith Knapstad, the chief operating officer, is serving as acting CEO of the Denver-based firm. Knapstad came to Storm Cat from J.M. Huber Corp., a privately held unconventional energy company where Zimmerman also was a long-term employee before joining Evergreen Resources in early 2002.

Earlier in April, Storm Cat closed a private placement of $31.7 million in convertible notes, which can be converted into roughly 27 million shares at $1.17 a share, well above the 91 cents the stock was bringing in the market on April 11. The placement is subject to approval from the holders of the current 80 million shares.

Knapstad said in a statement that Storm Cat planned to use the proceeds of the offering to “continue our aggressive development in the Powder River basin, move forward in the Fayetteville shale and continue our work in Canada.”

Aside from those properties, the company holds exploration leases in the Cook Inlet region of Alaska covering more than 22,000 acres, as well as interests in Mongolia. Storm Cat specializes in extracting gas from fractured shales, coal beds, and tight sand formations, but also has some oil properties.

Storm Cat has struggled a bit financially, with its share price dropping steadily from $3.50 when it began trading publicly in October of 2005 to as low as 70 cents earlier this year. The company posted a loss of 10 cents a share last year.

Of interest to Alaskans is the fact that the Storm Cat board includes David Wight, who retired from BP at the beginning of last year after 41 years with BP and predecessor Amoco. His final job with BP was as head of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. He remains active on the boards of several Alaska organizations, including Commonwealth North, Providence Hospital, the University of Alaska and the Nature Conservancy.

Storm Cat says it plans to pick a new CEO before its annual meeting in June.

—Allen Baker



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