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be ready to jump as soon as the markets open up, because everybody else will. You can't be left behind. Being small and nimble gives us an edge; we have low overheads and are very quick to make decisions." Add to that the company's vast store of technical knowledge and Ithaca has a winning hand, Woods says. One thing that is really helping push matters forward is a more realistic attitude on the part of the service sector, which could command very high margins during the boom times but has more slowly come to recognise that it is in everybody's interest to keep busy. " We are seeing much more collaboration for the service sector right now, and I think that is what will push projects like Athena forward," he says. It will perhaps become less prohibitive to get a well drilled or to hire an FPSO, and as a result the UK might see more, not less activity in the North Sea and continue to enjoy licence and tax revenues for a little longer than it might have expected. - Editorial research by Jason Martin Ithaca Energy July 09 www. bus- ex. com 69 Jacky is totally viable at today's oil prices, would have been a gold mine at the $ 144 per barrel level that prevailed last year, but looked less appealing at the $ 44 per barrel that oil had dropped to at the beginning of 2009. That's always been the way in this industry, of course, but never so much as today. However, with a broadening portfolio and prices rising again, Woods thinks the business will be sustainable. " Athena, for example, did not make economic sense earlier this year, but it's close, and if prices continue to rise it will come onstream. Hopefully, in the next three to five years we'll all have a larger portfolio in the UK North Sea, and at some point in the future as we see the opportunity, we will probably go overseas as well." Ithaca's growth strategy was aggressive when credit finance was available but has to be more cautious now because it has to be self- funded, he admits. " The trick is to make sure we're not too far down in the queue when the equity and debt markets do open again. But you have to

70 www. bus- ex. com July 09