Oil patch insider: Wulff, Oil Search snag Balash; Walsh becomes partner at PRA
Chantal Walsh, ex-director of Alaska’s Division of Oil and Gas, and Joe Balash, former Interior assistant secretary for land and minerals management, recently secured elevated positions in private industry in Alaska.
Walsh, who resigned her position with the division in February to return to Petrotechnical Resources of Alaska, an Anchorage-based integrated oil and gas consulting firm she and her husband Tom Walsh co-founded in 1997, has once again become a managing partner/owner in PRA.
Balash resigned his position at the Department of Interior effective Aug. 30 and will soon be going to work as senior vice president of external affairs for Oil Search, the company leading the North Slope exploration and development renaissance with its huge Nanushuk oil discovery and Pikka development.
In a Sept. 4 statement to Petroleum News, Christina Livesey and Tom Walsh, managing partners of PRA, said Chantal Walsh has joined them as a third managing partner.
Prior to accepting the appointment as division director in the Walker administration, Chantal, a life-long Alaskan, worked as a petroleum engineering consultant for numerous PRA clients, including Hilcorp, Chevron, Unocal, BP and Brooks Range Petroleum. Shortly after launching PRA more than 22 years ago with Tom and their three original PRA partners Chet Paris, Doug Dickey and Bob Ravn, Chantal accepted a petroleum engineering position with ARCO, and later rejoined her original employer BP for a brief second career with the company.
“Chantal is a certified petroleum engineer, with great breadth of knowledge and experience across the oil and gas engineering disciplines, and she is excited to rejoin the PRA family and the management team,” Livesey and Tom said.
Chantal and Tom’s son, Zan Walsh, a recent mechanical engineering graduate of Portland State University, has also joined the PRA team as an entry level engineer and is quickly gaining experience working on PRA-managed drilling, completion, and wellwork projects.
Balash grew up in North PoleBalash, who grew up in North Pole and still has family in the area, oversaw the Bureaus of Land Management and Ocean Energy Management while he was with Interior.
Prior to that he served as the chief of staff to U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and as former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
In a lengthy post on his Facebook page Sept. 4, Balash said he will be based in Oil Search’s Anchorage office.
Leaving the Department of the Interior, he said, was not an easy decision, but he is “excited to be coming home with a company that is doing great things.”
“Public service has been a passion of mine for more than 20 years. I love being involved in the decisions that affect our state and country, and I’m so grateful for the trust that has been placed in me that allowed me those opportunities. But with my oldest child graduating from high school, it felt like the right time to pursue a new path with new challenges, ideally a lot closer to home.”
Balash said he started taking calls from search firms in May.
“When the first contact turned out to be on behalf of an exploration and production company in Alaska, I was gob smacked,” he said.
Already familiar with Oil Search during his time at DNR, he had worked “with Bill Armstrong on a multitude of issues relating to his company’s lease interests - many of which eventually became the Oil Search-led Pikka project,” Balash said, referring to the founder of Armstrong Energy, which with Repsol discovered the untapped Nanushuk formation and brought Oil Search to Alaska as a partner.
“From tax policy, to unitization, and exploration plans, I learned then about the considerable potential believed to be present, assuming the State did its part regarding the oil and gas investment climate,” Balash wrote in his Facebook post.
Most recently, he was “pleased to see Oil Search receive a Record of Decision from the Corps of Engineers to proceed with development at Pikka. At 120,000+ barrels of daily production, I knew this was a key piece of Alaska’s economic and fiscal future.”
“Oil Search is doing great things in Alaska and …I want to be part of their success. Helping them get Pikka constructed over the next several years and continuing to pursue exploration targets means that I get to continue to help the State and people I love dearly.”
Oil Search, Balash said, “has a unique approach to dealing with local partners that I fully respect and will take pride in.”
“We are pleased to welcome Joe Balash to the Oil Search team later this month,” Oil Search’s top executive in Alaska, Keiran Wulff, said Sept. 4.
Balash will replace Cindy Bailey, who will “continue to serve Oil Search as an executive advisor,” he said.
“Joe is a proud Alaskan and brings significant regulatory and external affairs experience to Oil Search,” Wulff said.
- KAY CASHMAN