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SC08 Building A Business, Raising The Capital: Petroleum Geologists Who Have Done It And Will Tell You How

Sponsored by: AAPG Division of Professional Affairs

Sunday, 19 June 2022, 1:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.  |  Houston, Texas

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Course Content

2022 Moneymakers Conference

The entrepreneur petroleum geologist has witnessed dramatic change over the last few years. An explosion of funding from private equity firms led to the creation of a multitude of new oil and gas companies, but that funding source has radically decreased. Commodity prices of both oil and gas have seen wild swings in value, including the unprecedented negative values briefly experienced by oil. Capital that once flowed freely into new oil and gas investments is now fighting through a global mindset that views hydrocarbon production as a bad thing. Or not. And of course, we have had a worldwide economic crisis brought on by the battle with Covid-19.

AAPG’s DPA (Division of Professional Affairs) has brought together 8 petroleum geologists who have found a way to thrive despite all the hardships of the current financial climate. This special conference provides the attendees a unique opportunity to hear the back stories and struggles faced by companies led by geologists. You will learn how they have succeeded in building a business, finding the capital and sometimes, reinventing the way they thrive in the world of oil and gas. If you have ever thought about taking your skills as a geologist and expanding into the world of entrepreneurship, then this conference is for you.

Conference Agenda:
Talk #1 – 1:00pm

Reinventing Olifant Energy – Building A PDP Petroleum Company During A Pandemic
Donald Burdick

Olifant Energy came to life as a typical private equity backed oil company in 2017. After the sale of that company in 2019, Olifant reinvented itself into a PDP company without a traditional private equity sponsor. Donald will talk about the struggles and triumphs encountered by his team as they journeyed from a minimum wage, no asset dream to a profitable hydrocarbon production company all during 2020.

Talk #2 – 1:30pm

Geologists Love Minerals, From Diamonds To Royalties!
Kristie Luchtel Ferguson

Oil and Gas Minerals and Royalties are assets that are bought and sold every day. The mineral space has seen a tremendous amount of competition and growth over the last decade due to the development of the unconventional plays.I was fortunate to be a founding partner at Springbok Energy I and II, which launched in 2015 and sold together in 2020 for a successful multiple to Kimbell Royalty Partners.We were anchored by NGP and then raised additional capital to total over $135MM.Our business model focused on the grass roots purchasing of minerals and royalties with a technical team working with an internal sales team.

Believe it or not, there is much more to understand beyond the porosity and net pay of a play or basin. Factors such as the rate of capital deployment, number of rigs, operator history, number of permitted wells, development plans, and parent/child relationships, are just a few of the controls that must be monitored, compared, understood, and adjusted frequently. The risks and rewards of playing the mineral game are much different than being an operator. The beauty of being a mineral owner is that you do not have to make the day-to-day operational decisions about a well. Conversely, the downside about being a mineral owner is that you do not have control on the timing of the production or the development schedule. However, as with any company, the bottom line is the exit strategy. How much do you want to grow as a company, where do you want to end up, IPO? Merger? Sale? How to decide? How to do make this journey to the end changes at every swing in the oil and gas price. This is a tale of our mineral journey and some of our learnings along the way, rock hammer in hand.

Talk #3 – 2:00pm

Continued Evolution – As A Company And As An Individual
Todd Witmer

Summary: U.S. Energy has evolved through multiple transitions of its strategy, operations, and management team over its 40+ year history. Todd Witmer will discuss how U.S. Energy navigated a variety of challenges since the transition to its 2nd generation of leadership. The transformation included significant change to its team, culture and areas of operation resulting in the company being in its strongest financial position in its history, with a promising outlook for the next 40 years.

Talk #4 – 2:30pm

Transitioning Into A Capital Management Role From A G&G Background In The E&P Industry
William H. Goodwin

Petroleum Geologists are technically trained to predict and answer some of the toughest questions in the E&P business. Unfortunately for many Geologists, the laser focus on highly specific skills commonly isolates them far away from business decisions made around deploying and managing capital.This talk focuses on the path for G&G individuals to look at our industry through a commercial lens of assessing both risk and potential as an investor, raising capital and building a business.

Talk #5 – 3:00pm

DCARB: Benefiting From Obligation – An Organic Idea Cultivated By Necessity
Whitney Landress

DCARB Project is a unique company focused on plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, promoting land and agricultural best practices, and rewarding emissions reduction by leveraging blockchain technology to create transparency as well as our own cryptocurrency designed to create assets with intrinsic value. As young and tech-savvy scientists who were laid off during the pandemic, the DCARB group came together organically to solve some of the petroleum industry’s biggest issues – abandoned and orphaned oil and gas wells. The DCARB group will outline how their group came together and their plan to unlock the potential of blockchain technology to change the way the oil and gas industry benefits from their obligations.

Talk #6 – 3:30pm

How to Build A Company With Lots Of Ideas But A Small Amount of Cash
J. Michael Party

When you decide, or a company decides for you, that you need to look at being an independent or starting your own company, it can be scary. But if you have laid a good foundation, it should not be a scary point in your life, it should be an exciting point as you venture down the new career path.

This talk will discuss how you build a company the old-fashioned way, generate a drillable prospect, get funding for land and seismic, and get the prospect drilled and tested. In my opinion this is the best avenue to build a company. You can structure the deals in a way that, if successful, you get more of the reward. With avenues such as private equity, it is rarely the case where everything works out so well that you see much of the reward.

The hardest part is getting money to fund the exploration and drilling of your prospect. This talk will discuss ways to fund seismic and land acquisitions to get the prospect ready to sell.

Talk #7 – 4:00pm

Tall City Exploration III - Surviving Another ‘Once-in-a Lifetime’ Bust
Michael Oestmann

Tall City Exploration III is the product of 15 years of private equity booms and busts.Mike will discuss reactions to the market, some mistakes made and a couple of successes along this private equity journey.

Talk #8 – 4:30pm

Financing The Independent Geologist
Lee Billingsley

External financing frequently separates the dreamer with a good idea from the successful oil and gas producer who gets ideas evaluated on a regular basis. So how does an independent geologist obtain funds for a prospect? After a viable prospect idea has been formulated, this talk will guide you through a process for finding investors, setting potential deal terms, and presenting your prospect. Finally, you may get a glimpse of how a successful prospect might affect you economically


Members $195
Non-Members $245
Students $145
Room Assignment
George R. Brown Convention Center


SC08 Building A Business, Raising The Capital: Petroleum Geologists Who Have Done It And Will Tell You How
George R. Brown Convention Center
1001 Avenida De Las Americas
Houston, Texas 77010
United States
(713) 853-8000


Donald G. Burdick
Donald Burdick CEO Olifant Energy II, USA
Donald G. Burdick is the CEO of Olifant Energy II, an independent oil and gas production company in Tulsa, Okla. that was created in 2020. With degrees in geology from Duke University and the University of Oklahoma, Donald has worked in the oil patch for more than 35 years, covering every onshore U.S. basin and a few international ones too. He has been a member of AAPG since 1982.
Kristie Leigh Luchtel Ferguson
Kristie Luchtel Ferguson President KLF Geological Consulting, LLC, USA
Kristie Ferguson is president of Tulsa based KLF Geological Consulting. Her previous roles include vice president of geology at Springbok Energy, exploration and development asset lead for Newfield Exploration, exploration geologist for Samson Resources, senior geologist for ExxonMobil and geologist for Phillips Petroleum Company. During the past decade, Ferguson has served the AAPG House of Delegates as chairman and vice chairman of the Honors and Awards Committee, co-chairman of the Membership committee and HoD secretary/editor. She is also a member of the Division of Professional Affairs and a Trustee Associate of the AAPG Foundation.
Todd Witmar
Todd Witmar
Todd Witmer is the Vice President of Corporate Development at U. S. Energy Development Company in Arlington, Texas. Todd joined U.S. Energy in 2001 as a Geologist and has served in various technical, leadership and executive positions, focusing primarily on geology, prospect development, A&D and strategic planning throughout his tenure. Since 2010, much of his experience focused on projects in the Permian, Eagle Ford, Barnett, Anadarko, Powder River and the Williston Basins. Mr. Witmer began his career focused in the Appalachian Basin as the geologist responsible for the development of more than 1,200 wells in New York and Pennsylvania, as well as multiple Marcellus Shale projects in southwest Pennsylvania. He has also played a lead role in acquisitions and divestitures for U.S. Energy and is directly responsible for acquisitions with a total transaction value over $300 Million and a significant contribution to the deployment of over $1 Billion in development CapEx. Mr. Witmer is a certified Petroleum Geologist that holds a B.A. and M.S. in Geology, a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
William Harrison Goodwin
William Goodwin Managing Partner Esperanza Capital Partners, USA
William Goodwin is a Managing Partner at Esperanza Capital Partners in Houston, Texas. Prior to co-founding Esperanza in 2021, William was a Partner at Millennial Energy Partners “MEP”, a Houston based oil and gas investment firm and direct asset manager. During his time at MEP, William served as a member of the York Tactical Fund (“YTEF”) Investment Committee, where he helped guide the deployment of capital across the upstream and midstream sectors with professionals from York Capital Management. Prior to MEP, William served in various technical roles at Nexen Petroleum, Anglo-Dutch Energy, Cobalt International Energy and Houston Energy L.P. He graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Geology.
Whitney Landress
Whitney Landress Command Energy, USA
Whitney Landress is a professional petroleum geologist. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Geology with an emphasis in petroleum from Oklahoma State University and her Master of Science in Geosciences from the University of Tulsa. In her professional career, Whitney has worked as a geologist for companies large and small and has a well-rounded background of experience in exploration, data analytics, and authoring geological publications. Whitney has been involved with humanitarian efforts to clean up the reputation of the energy industry as well as the environment. As a co-founder of DCARB, she is spearheading research and development efforts to create a robust understanding of emissions reduction and best-practices for land use to influence community standards and public policy.
J. Michael Party
J. Michael Party President Beryl Oil and Gas LP, USA
Mike Party is CEO/President of Beryl Oil and Gas, LP and a General Partner in Cardinal Resources, LLC, and has been working in the Oil and Gas industry for 39 years. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1978 with a B.S. degree in geology/geophysics and was awarded an Honorary Professional Degree in 1994. He started his career with Cities Services working as a geophysicist, he then joined Wagner & Brown in 1981 serving as Exploration Manager for 9 years before joining Reliance Energy in November 2009. Mike served as Vice President of Exploration for Reliance Energy until Reliance Energy’s main assets were sold to Concho Resources in October 2016. Mike is an active member of local, national, and international geological societies. Most notably, has served as the President of the Southwest Section of the AAPG, Secretary of AAPG, President of the Division of Professional Affairs within the AAPG, and is the current President-Elect of AAPG and will be President 2019-2020. He also served as President of the West Texas Geological Society and the Permian Basin Section of SEPM. Mike was awarded the Outstanding Young Alumni from the University of Missouri •Rolla and Honorary Life membership from both the West Texas Geological Society and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. He is a Certified Geologist within the State of Texas and is a Certified Petroleum Geologist and Certified Petroleum Geophysicist by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
Michael A. Oestmann
Michael Oestmann Tall City Exploration, USA
Michael A. Oestmann has over 38 years of experience in all aspects of the oil and gas business, with a particular focus on company start-ups, exploration, asset management and development. Mr. Oestmann has experience in numerous geologic basins and has a consistent record of increasing production in existing fields, exploration success and company development and sale. He began his career with Exxon Co. USA in 1982 after graduating from Rice University with a bachelor’s degree in geology with a geophysics option. He worked 15 years with Exxon, 7 years with Titan/Pure Resources/Unocal, then several other public and private companies in various exploration, development and senior management positions. In 2007 he co-founded Piedra Resources with private equity partners. Piedra sold its assets in 2011 for over $120 million. Mr. Oestmann began Tall City Exploration in May of 2012 with a $200 Million private equity commitment. Tall City 1 completed the sale of its assets in 2015 for a total of $1.2B. He is currently President and CEO of Tall City Exploration III, backed by a $500 million equity commitment from Warburg Pincus. Michael Oestmann is a 38 year member of the AAPG and SEG, member of the PBGS (having served as President) WTGS and SIPES. He serves on the boards of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, the West Texas Geology Foundation and as an elder at Westway Church of Christ in Midland. He and Cathy, his wife of 36 years, live in Midland, Texas.
Lee Travis Billingsley
Lee Billingsley Long Ridge Resources LLC, USA
Lee Billingsley is Partner in a new venture, Long Ridge Resources LLC. Previously he served as: President and Founder of a PE-backed company, Windridge Oil & Gas LP; VP/Exploration for a small public company, Abraxas Petroleum; and President and Founder of an independent E&P, Sandia Oil & Gas Corp. Lee earned degrees in Geology from Texas A&M University (BS and PhD) and Colorado School of Mines (MS). He also served as President of AAPG (2006/2007).