By Geoff Percival
Tullow Oil is set to reach the end of an era in July when founder and former chief executive Aidan Heavey formally leaves the company after more than 30 years.
The company has named Dorothy Thompson — the former CEO of UK electrical generation business Drax — as its proposed new chair.
She is set to succeed Mr Heavey at Tullow’s July 20 board meeting, after which Mr Heavey will retire from the company’s board.
He has sat there since forming the company in 1985, growing it by focusing on small undeveloped oil fields in Africa at a time when most Irish explorers were looking no further than the Celtic Sea.
After leading Tullow through the fallout of the global oil price collapse of 2014, Mr Heavey stepped down as chief executive — being replaced by former chief operating officer Paul McDade 12 months ago — and became temporary chair.
Mr Heavey said that Ms Thompson holds “exactly the right mix of leadership, managerial, operational and financial experience that Tullow needs”.
Analysts greeted the appointment news positively, saying Ms Thompson brings to Tullow energy experience from outside the oil and gas sector. However, Tullow’s share price was down by over 1.2% yesterday.
Elsewhere, shares in Irish onshore exploration company Falcon Oil and Gas jumped by as much as 8% on the back of a two-year moratorium on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in Australia’s Northern Territory being lifted.
Dublin-based Falcon holds a 30% stake in the highly-rated Beetaloo Basin shale gas field in the region.
The lifting of the ban, which had been expected, paves the way for Falcon and its local development partner Origin Energy to drill five more wells at Beetaloo “as soon as practical”.
Realistically, the two companies will focus on preparatory work and gaining necessary final approvals this year before recommencing drilling work in 2019, which could include mining for oil as well as gas.
Falcon said, in February, that latest resource studies pointed to 61 trillion cubic feet of gas at Beetaloo.
“Well testing completed just prior to the moratorium indicated there was a very promising material gas resource in the Beetaloo sub-basin,” Origin said.
Davy said that the lifting of the fracking ban has not been reflected in Falcon’s share price.
“While this outcome was based on science and evidence, the decision to lift the bank was political. Consequently, we do not think it was possible to be certain of this outcome,” said analyst Job Langbroek.