Aju­nior oil pro­ducer that’s able to grow its pro­duc­tion with­out tak­ing on ad­di­tional debt in the cur­rent com­mod­ity en­vi­ron­ment prob­a­bly sounds like the oil and gas in­dus­try’s ver­sion of a uni­corn. But that’s what Rag­ing River Ex­plo­ration has been able to do, and that’s due in large part to Ja­son Jaskela. He has led the com­pany’s ef­forts to op­ti­mize pro­duc­tion from its core Vik­ing play, and he’s done it while de­creas­ing well costs in ex­cess of 25 per cent. That’s greatly im­proved Rag­ing River’s in­ter­nal eco­nom­ics and al­lowed it to con­tinue to grow de­spite the de­pressed com­mod­ity prices. “Be­tween $45 and $50 is where we can put up marginal growth,” Jaskela says. “We’re one of the very few that can do that. It’s not as­tro­nom­i­cal, but we can show a bit of growth.”

Rag­ing River’s cost-con­scious ways are em­bed­ded in the com­pany’s DNA, Jaskela says. “Ul­ti­mately, it comes from Neil [Roszell] – it comes from the top down. We’re a pretty ba­sic and hum­ble group, and we’re aligned with share­hold­ers so we’re spend­ing money like it’s our own dol­lar go­ing into the ground. If you can go to the street with the best cap­i­tal costs, and ul­ti­mately the best eco­nom­ics, you can do more with your busi­ness. So we’ve al­ways strived to be the best. Sta­tus quo has never been good enough.” Rag­ing River’s Bea­dle play is a case study in how the com­pany has cre­ated value by test­ing new ap­proaches and ideas. “Three years ago ev­ery­body had writ­ten that off,” Jaskela says. “No­body be­lieved that there was an eco­nomic re­source there, and now to­day it’s prob­a­bly our largest area. It was just by con­tin­u­ally get­ting back in there, push­ing tech­nol­ogy and find­ing a way to de­velop that rock and make it pro­duc­tive.”

One of the ways it’s made that rock more pro­duc­tive has been by op­ti­miz­ing the spac­ing and con­fig­u­ra­tion of its wells. As a re­sult, while it ex­per­i­mented with den­si­ties rang­ing from 16 to 28 wells per sec­tion, it set­tled on 22 as the best fit for its as­sets. “We re­al­ized, look­ing at our oil in place, that there was op­por­tu­nity in some of our lands to de­velop that fur­ther,” Jaskela says. “The longer-term plan for this play in a lot of the acreage is in wa­ter flood­ing, so we tied our in-fill spac­ing back to what was op­ti­mal for fu­ture wa­ter flood­abil­ity.” But while Rag­ing River is al­ways test­ing out new ideas, tech­nolo­gies and ap­proaches in an ef­fort to

re­duce costs, it’s tried to avoid load­ing all of the pain that’s cur­rently be­ing felt in the mar­ket onto the shoul­ders of its ser­vice providers. “There’s no ben­e­fit for us in bankrupt­ing our ser­vice providers. It’s a re­la­tion­ship, and we’re very aware of that. Our ser­vice providers are guys that helped us to de­velop the play. We’ve done it to­gether. So it’s a con­tin­ual dis­cus­sion with them.”

It’s also a con­tin­ual dis­cus­sion with the mem­bers of Jaskela’s own team, one that’s taken him out of the field more of­ten than he might like. “I cut my teeth in cov­er­alls. Op­er­a­tions is my back­ground, so I kind of like go­ing back to my roots. But I don’t get to do it very of­ten any more.” But, he says, learn­ing to del­e­gate and man­age a team of em­ploy­ees is all part of be­ing a first-rate ex­ec­u­tive. “All of us in this of­fice are very tech­ni­cal, and love to do the work. But it’s a tran­si­tion that has to hap­pen. Ev­ery­body in this of­fice, right from Neil down through all of our ex­ecs, are all ca­pa­ble of do­ing the real tech­ni­cal work, and we all love to do it. But at the same time you have to rec­og­nize that you have other staff that you need to guide and em­power. That’s a big part of it: you have to give them the rope to make their own de­ci­sions.” They’ve made some good ones, lately – and it stands to rea­son they’ll con­tinue to as long as Jaskela is the one feed­ing them the rope.

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