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66 www. bus- ex. com July 09 Pessimists say that the North Sea is in decline, but there's enough oil and gas under there to keep it active for decades. John O'Hanlon speaks to John Woods, chief development offi cer of Ithaca Energy ( UK) Ltd Shining Ithaca

Ithaca Energy I thaca Energy is focused on the oil and gas resources of the North Sea, parcelled out in a series of annual licencing rounds by the UK government. The economics are simple, if their application is complex. As oil prices rise, it becomes worthwhile to drill for reserves that aren't a paying prospect when prices are low, and Ithaca's team has vast experience in the North Sea. John Woods, chief development officer for Ithaca, knows the oilfields like the back of his hand, having spent 25 years working with large operators and managing some of the most complex developments there, and he now screens potential assets with a view either to acquire them or to purchase an interest. Generally speaking, he says, the market in Toronto has been much more sympathetic to independent oil companies than the UK market, which is why the holding company is incorporated in Canada. However, Ithaca UK is its only asset. Operationally it is a UK company, with its headquarters in Aberdeen and dual listing on the AIM and the Toronto Stock Exchange. Since it was founded in 2006, it has built up a portfolio of assets, some of which it owns outright but mostly shares with other partners to spread the risk. These have been acquired through several routes, he explains, including buying into assets operated by larger companies. Smaller operators like Ithaca have benefited from the new Promote licences. " These enable small companies to come in with short- term licences and relatively simple work programmes. We have picked up several of those over the last three or four licencing rounds." Another boost has been the ' fallow acreage' initiative, which has forced the majors to dispose of assets they aren't actively exploiting but which might be attractive to smaller operators. July 09 www. bus- ex. com 67