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Exclusive Interview with James Parsons

James Parsons, CEO, Sound Energy

James Parsons has 23 years’ experience in the fields of strategy, management, finance and corporate development in the energy industry. He has been Chief Executive Officer of Sound Energy since October 2012.

  1. What do you perceive to be the main challenges in the North African gas industry at the moment?

I think that one of the main challenges for oil and gas in North Africa is security; it’s a huge issue particularly in Algeria, Egypt and Libya. These higher risk locations inevitably affect the stability of the region. One of the reasons we entered Morocco was its attractive risk profile compared to other North African countries.

  1. Morocco is often described as an under-explored region – Would you agree with this, and if so, what do you believe the scale of the gas E&P opportunities in Morocco is? 

Morocco has been geologically challenging both on and offshore over the last decade or two.  It’s always appeared strange that adjacent Algeria has been so successful and is one of the world’s largest gas exporters whereas Morocco shares the same geology and yet has no material production.

What Sound Energy has been doing is drilling very close to the Algerian border on the Moroccan side and trying to unlock the geological potential there. We’ve had some early stage success with two wells that have really worked out for us and our sense is that there could be a huge onshore gas reserve to commercialise.

  1. Looking at your recent Tendara gas discovery –  do you think this could transform the Moroccan gas industry? How will this affect its position amongst the rest of the region? 

We think and hope it will be a transformational discovery, the upside case is that it rapidly changes the dynamics of the region’s gas supply. At the moment Morocco is a 90% importer of hydrocarbons and if this discovery comes to fruition that number will reduce dramatically.  This would obviously be fantastic for Morocco and good for the region. .

  1. The Moroccan government stated in COP21 that they want to get 52% of its power from renewable sources by 2030. What does this mean for the Moroccan gas industry?

I think the direction of travel is absolutely right; we definitely need to find ourselves more sustainable energy sources from an environmental perspective. Long term we all need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels but short term and medium term a good start in that direction is to transition from dirtier coal and oil to much cleaner gas. We see gas as being a bridge fuel between the dirty coal and oil and the next generation of fuels that aren’t available yet, and that’s probably a 10 to 15 year bridge in our mind which is perfect for our reservoirs.

  1. Nigeria and Morocco have signed a memo of understanding relating to natural gas, including plans to promote a regional gas pipeline project connecting both countries – How important is it for the region to work together in order to develop its infrastructure?

As an aspiration it’s fantastic although it doesn’t come without its challenges, if you think about the distances involved and the countries they would have to transit.  We look forward to seeing this project progressed

  1. What do you think the key to success is in managing a prosperous gas company operating in Morocco? 

The ingredients for us have included acquiring the right assets, bringing in the right team and introducing the right partners.   We are fortunate enough to have Schlumberger at the drill bit, a cornerstone investor underpinning the company and a great team established in Rabat.

  1. What do you think the main advantages are of events like NAS for the industry?

We are a relative newcomer; we are only about 18 months into our African journey so for us it’s about meeting like-minded companies, forming new-relationship and seeking out new assets to broaden our portfolio.

James Parsons will be speaking at the North Africa Oil & Gas Summit on 27th January 2017 (Day 2). Mr Parsons will be talking about how to maximise the potential of new discoveries: how the Tendrara gas discovery could be game-changer for Morocco.

Mr Parsons will also be taking part in a Panel Discussion on Emerging frontiers in North Africa – above and below ground challenges and future prospects.

Find out more here.