Beginning with just one employee and one million euros in investment, exploration and production company Energean Oil & Gas has grown to 400 employees (and counting) and was recently listed on both the London and Tel Aviv Stock Exchanges — all this over just 11 years in operation.
“In this country, although very few people believe that it’s doable, you can actually start without being from a family with a background in investment. You can start from pretty much ground zero and work your way [up] to creating a billion dollar company, which is what Energean is all about,” said Energean CEO and founding shareholder Mathios Rigas, whose background is in petroleum engineering and investment banking.
Rigas explained that as a trained petroleum engineer, he was keeping his eye on the only oil-producing asset in Greece in the early 2000s: the Prinos field. In 2007, the field was poorly managed and dwindling; but Rigas remembered that in 2005, there was an announcement about a discovery of one billion barrels after drilling a dry well, so he decided this was the perfect opportunity to create the only oil and gas producing company in Greece. His vision has become a reality
“We have invested more than 350 million dollars in the last decade in the Prinos field and have created hundreds of jobs; [we] have brought drilling rigs to Greece, have kept Greece on the hydrocarbon producing map around the world, and, at the same time, [have] helped [educate] governments and politicians [on] how to bring investment [to] the exploration side,” the now CEO of Greece’s only hydrocarbon producer explained.
A few years ago, Rigas saw another monumental opportunity — this time, to expand into Israel. In 2014-2015, when the rest of the industry was still recovering from the oil price crisis starting in 2003, Energean, which had kept a strong balance sheet and paid off all its debt in 2015, decided it was ready to take over the Karish and Tanin gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea off of Israel’s coast. Given the company’s comparatively small size — when stacked next to other international oil companies like Exxon, Total, and BP — doubt circulated around Energean’s ability to deliver.
“We never underestimated the challenge of operating a 1.6 billion dollar investment,” Rigas said of the Israeli project. So, like it has done from the beginning, Energean got down to business. Energean got itself listed on the London Stock Exchange this March, raising 330 million euros — the largest public listing in the oil and gas industry over the past four years. And on October 29, Energean shares began trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange as well. Shares are now fully transferable and exchangeable between the two markets.
“We are delighted to be the first UK listed international oil and gas operator to list its shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange,” Rigas said.
The next step: Build the infrastructure necessary for exploration and eventual transportation. Energean is currently focused on developing and filling up the capacity of its Floating Production, Storage, and Offloading vessel (FPSO) in Israel. The company has 4.2 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas contracts already signed in Israel, and with its ambitious FPSO construction, it is looking to double capacity of the FPSO and pipeline system to 8 bcm. The long-term idea driving this? Once complete, the Israeli FPSO will be the only FPSO in the entire East Mediterranean, allowing the area around Energean’s fields and infrastructure to become a gas hub for the region.
The FPSO should be complete by the end of this year, which will allow for initial exploration to quickly follow. Energean says it is on track for the first gas from its Karish and Tanin fields to be ready for delivery by 2021.
But Rigas is a long-term thinker, setting his sights beyond Greece and Israel — and Energean’s other current operations in Egypt and Montenegro — to what lies on the horizon.
“Our next challenge is to bring gas to other countries,” said Rigas with supreme foresight. “We’re talking to other markets around Israel to be able to export” — in the Mediterranean and North Africa.
Rigas also mentioned Cyprus, saying, “We can supply gas long-term to the island at very competitive rates.” Energean is in the process of seeking approval from the Cypriot government to build a pipeline from its Israeli offshore gas fields to be able to import 0.5 to 1 bcm of gas per year to the island. The company has also offered sales of 0.5 to 0.8 bcm of gas per year to Cyprus via a pipeline that could be installed by the early 2020s.
“We are not the company that will compete with Exxon, Shell, BP, Chevron, Total, the big players,” Rigas said, “but we are a company that can go in and take a difficult situation, and make it happen, making that a top priority and dedicating all our resources and our abilities to make this a commercial reality.”
That, in fact, has been the key to Energean’s wild success over the past 11 years.