The Energy Industry Review team spoke with Mark Wagley – Vice President and Country Manager at Hunt Oil Company of Romania and former President of Romanian Petroleum Exploration & Production Companies Association (ROPEPCA), on a range of topics from industry issues, workforce retention, CSR programs, breakthrough technologies, and his advice for young professionals.
Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, Texas is a privately held exploration and production company that has conducted petroleum operations for more than 85 years. Today, it is one of the world’s leading independent energy companies, with operations in North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East.
In 2010, Hunt Oil Company of Romania (HOCOR), an affiliate of Hunt Oil Company, announced the relocation of the Hunt London office to Bucharest, Romania. HOCOR commenced a joint venture with OMV Petrom in September, 2010 for two exploration licenses in the country and has been the operator since 2013.
Mark Wagley is Vice President and Country Manager at Hunt Oil Company of Romania, a position he has held since 2013. He is responsible for strategy and vision for HOCOR’s activities in Romania and nearby regions, identifying new business opportunities that enable the company to achieve its growth objectives. He builds and oversees a multi-discipline and multi-cultural office and field staff by providing effective leadership including performance oversight and technical competency. He also develops relationships with local oil and gas professional organizations and Government stakeholders to ensure compliance with local law and to share best practices.
Before his current position, Mark was the Appalachian District Superintendent based in Pennsylvania (2010-2013) for Hunt Oil Co. Previous to that (2002-2010), he acted as Production Superintendent for Hunt Oil Co. in the East Texas & North Louisiana Basins. Mark joined Hunt in 1992, and between 1992-2002, he held the position of Production Supervisor in the Republic of Yemen.
Dear Mr. Wagley, you represent Hunt Oil Company in Romania and nearby regions. How did you apply your vast experience garnered over almost 40 years within the oil and gas industry to the activity in Romania?
Mark Wagley: Hunt has a wealth of knowledge and experience having drilled wells on every continent except Antarctica.
We have a strong corporate culture grounded on: Respect for the Individual, Humility, Community-Centric, Creativity, Commitment to Excellence, Teamwork, Honesty and Integrity. Further we have demonstrated the ability to differentiate ourselves by being agile, adaptable and contrarian when appropriate.
My career path led me to be the Sr. Executive for Hunt in Romania, so it is my primary responsibility to perpetuate these values with our workforce and key stakeholders.
How do you see the exploration and production operations in Romania compared to the other regions? Do you find any similarities between Romania and Texas, for example? And differences…?
Mark Wagley: Romania has many parallels with my home state of Texas as both are blessed with abundant natural resources, have a well-educated workforce, and are well positioned to be net energy exporters.
Due to the pace of activity in Texas, practically all services needed to conduct operations are only a phone call away.
Operating in Romania requires advanced planning as the pace of activity in the past decade has been very low, and contractors are attempting to recover from the downturn. Dealing with the snow and colder climate in Romania has presented challenges. You don’t need snow fences or shovels in Texas sunshine!
What are the projects you are preparing or are already in progress in Romania?
Mark Wagley: We just recently completed the largest contiguous 3D Geophysical project in onshore Europe.
The South Urziceni 3D project consisted of acquiring 1,589 sq. km of data in the western extension of the Moesian Platform over a three-county area with the objective to evaluate the hydrocarbon potential in the deeper section of the underexplored subsurface below 3,500 meters.
The Romanian company, Prospectiuni, deployed over 120,000 geophone stations, along with three fleets of four vibrators combined with eight shooting crews which completed the project in 5 months.
On the Urziceni 3D project, we utilized cable-less nodal technology to increase trace density while decreasing Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) exposure and greatly reducing environmental and social impacts.
During the operations over 900,000 man-hours were worked and 2,274,877 km driven incident free.
Our team is very proud of this project and look forward to applying our lessons learned to future acquisitions, which are planned to re-commence in the fall of 2020.
Lately, most of the companies from the energy sector unveiled their programs and plans in the CSR area. What is Hunt Oil Company’s approach in this regard abroad and in Romania?
Mark Wagley: Hunt strives to provide opportunities for open and honest communication with local communities concerning all projects involving the organization’s corporate area of influence.
As a responsible member of the community, Hunt aims to develop long term relationships with the people and communities the company serves.
As part of the recent South Urziceni 3D project, we engaged 36 communes in Braila, Buzau, and Ialomita counties and provided significant community engagement projects specific to the needs of the individual communities, with a focus on education.
We installed gas fired heating systems in schools where parts of the school could not be utilized during winter months, donated laptops to the local Technological High School, built playground parks, provided new school furniture, and supported English as a Second Language (ESL) and dropout prevention programs.
In previous years, we have supported local communities by funding much needed emergency response vehicles (Ambulance, Fire & Personnel support trucks) which now serve over 25,000 people in the area.
We find these type of projects to be of significant benefit to all stakeholders, by raising the quality of life in both the communities we operate and at the same time providing better support to our operations through the added infrastructure and fostering the positive and collaborative relationships we have successfully built within those communities.
The oil and gas industry is marked by price volatility, and faces a potentially changing energy mix, challenging engineers to think about the long term. How can petroleum engineers become multiskilled professionals with knowledge and experience not just in their traditional fields, but also in big data, artificial intelligence, digitalization, data transformation?
Mark Wagley: There is indeed a changing energy mix underway.
Coal is dying as a primary fuel source and renewables are evolving at a very fast rate.
However, hydrocarbons, in general, will continue to play a majority role in human mobility far into the future.
Hunt Oil Company intends to continue to be a key player in that arena.
As evidence of that we perceive Data Analytics and Machine Learning are not to be feared, but used as additional tools to be added to a Geoscientist’s existing ‘tool kit’.
We have employed personnel that specialize in these fields. These specialists work side by side with traditional Petroleum Engineers, and other disciplines, in a team-based environment, where everyone brings their strengths to bear on the project at hand. Of course, the transfer of knowledge between all team members naturally occurs as part of the process, and we have recently launched a digital academy in our Dallas headquarters to teach these skills to our technical staff.
For those who have yet to enter the work force, we would encourage the pursuit of a Geoscience/Engineering major augmented by Computer Science with a concentration on AI.
What have been Hunt Oil of Romania’s main achievements/accomplishments in the last years?
Mark Wagley: We are currently the 4th largest producer of natural gas in Romania and continue to make significant investments to increase our role in ensuring Romania’s transition to a clean energy future for which gas would be a transition fuel and an energy source easily available when renewables are not.
The Padina discovery is currently producing at a rate of 2,666 barrels of oil equivalent per day.
We went from drilling the well to first gas sales in 22 months leaning on lessons learned from other regions.
We have built a very strong multi-disciplined team that has proven to be agile and adaptive to the many changes we are facing in the new global economy.
The strengths recognized by our partners and the Romanian oil industry are our ability to transform opportunities into reality quickly, the efficient use of both the project capital we employ and the cost to operate, while honouring and fostering the grounding corporate values that bind our company culture and operations.
What do you consider the biggest challenges that the oil and gas industry and your company are facing at the moment on the Romanian market? How is HOCOR managing them?
Mark Wagley: Romania has a lot of positive attributes and has made great strides in welcoming foreign investment.
As the country continues to grow, it is important that they continue working to provide a stable financial climate because judicial, legislative, fiscal and regulatory unpredictability can complicate the business environment.
Capital has wheels and favours predictable and stable fiscal regimes.
Investors always seek the highest risk adjusted returns on the funds they employ. Unstable fiscal environments translate to higher risk.
We are active members of ROPEPCA and engage the Romanian authorities through our membership. ROPEPCA has been consistent in expressing its point of view in public consultations and remains open to active dialogue with authorities for the benefit of authorities, stakeholders, and business.
What is your perspective on the evolution of the industry in which you are active in the context of political and economic instability?
Mark Wagley: Managing risk has always been an integral part of the energy business, and regardless of where they are in the world, oil and gas companies will always be sensitive to the potential for political and economic instability.
As I mentioned, establishing and maintaining rule of law and a stable investment structure is key to anywhere we invest.
How would you describe the evolution of your company until now? What estimates do you have for 2020 and the next several years?
Mark Wagley: We have been consistent in our mission to be a growth-oriented industry leader respected throughout the world for the quality and competence of our people, the efficiency and scope of our operations and our rich heritage of honesty and integrity.
For 2020, we intend to execute another very large 3D Geophysical project in Braila, Galati and Vrancea Counties, and together with the data obtained from the South Urziceni project, we intend to use processing algorithms and work flows proven successful elsewhere to obtain knowledge of the deeper underexplored subsurface. In the long term, we will transform that data into drillable opportunities that ultimately will lead to further development of the resources for the benefit of our company and the country.
How can O&G companies better develop their talent and manage their workforce?
Mark Wagley: We must invest in their continuing education and provide a stable, predictable work environment where they can excel and be recognized and rewarded for their contribution.
Additionally, it is imperative to create a work environment that is fun and where new ideas are free to be expressed without fear.
Advice to young professionals
Since you are a Senior Executive with many years of service behind you, would you like to share some thoughts for the younger oil & gas generation? What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career that you think would benefit young professionals today?
Mark Wagley: Be realistic in managing expectations for your career.
Work hard and continue to invest in yourself through continuing education and networking with peers.
Identify a mentor and emulate the positives.
We all experience ups and downs, both in our careers and in our lives. It is how we react to these peaks and valleys that define our character.
Our core values provide us strength in the valleys, and humility at the peak, with the realization that these instances will only be temporary. We must embrace and celebrate the changes that life inevitably throws at us.
What would you say is the formula to a successful career?
Mark Wagley: Investing in a shared goal and owning the result whether positive or negative will provide the fuel to succeed. Most of us are lucky if get three good opportunities in our lifetimes for a step change in career advancement. All too often we fail to recognize them. A good sign for recognizing those opportunities is when we are fearful and uncomfortable with the potential change in front of us. That is the exact moment you should grab the bull by the horns and take on something new. And if you fail, you will have learned more from that than your previous successes.