Providence chief quits unexpectedly amid Barryroe review

Alan Linn took helm at oil and gas explorer less than two years ago

Departing Providence Resources chief executive Alan Linn said: ‘I have decided to step down from the board to devote more time to my other business interests.’ Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Departing Providence Resources chief executive Alan Linn said: ‘I have decided to step down from the board to devote more time to my other business interests.’ Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

 

Providence Resources’ chief executive, Alan Linn, has quit unexpectedly after less than two years, as the oil and gas explorer is carrying out a strategic review into how to develop its key Barryroe project off the Cork coastline.

The company said in a statement that chairman James Menton would assume the role of executive chairman, as Mr Linn’s exit took effect from Monday. A search for a permanent successor would commence immediately, it said.

Providence’s shares slid as much as 12.5 per cent in Dublin to 3.5c.

“I have decided to step down from the board to devote more time to my other business interests,” said Mr Linn. “Following the recent strategic decision by the board to take the management and financing of the Barryroe project in-house, this is the opportune time to hand over to new leadership.”

Mr Linn said Providence is now “well placed to progress the Barryroe project” and he thanked colleagues “for their support through a challenging period in the development of the company”. He did not return calls from The Irish Times seeking comment on Tuesday on his sudden departure.

The chemical engineer, with over 35 years’ experience in the oil and gas industry, took over Providence in January 2021, after a tumultuous period for the company, after a second partnership deal to finance the development of Barryroe collapsed.

Farm-out agreement

Mr Linn presided over the agreement of a third so-called farm-out agreement last year with Norway’s SpotOn, which was supposed to ultimately receive a 50 per cent stake in the project subject to completing a $166 million (€138 million) fundraising to develop the field. However, that fell through in April, leading Providence to decide to go it alone in developing the project some 50km off the Cork coastline.

Providence’s shares have drifted sideways since then, as there has been little progress on the project, even though oil prices have surged more than 20 per cent over the same period. Brent crude oil was trading at about $83.50 a barrel in London on Tuesday.

Providence has undergone a boardroom refresh since Mr Linn’s arrival, with its new chairman, former KPMG partner Jim Menton, presiding over the launch of a strategic review on Barryroe in recent months.

The company said as recently as September 29th that the review, encompassing both Providence’s technical strategy and its related financial strategy, would be completed by the end of the year in order determine the strategic plan for the development of the field.

Barryroe, a field that in 2012 was found to have more than 300 million barrels of recoverable oil, had been led by Tony O’Reilly jnr for more than two decades before he exited in late 2019.

An initial farm-out agreement Mr O’Reilly struck with a firm called Sequoia Petroleum fell through in 2015 after the chosen partner failed to raise the necessary funds to participate. A subsequent agreement with a Chinese group, APEC Energy, was abandoned in 2019 after that partner missed a series of deadlines to put up the agreed cash.

Barryroe may be the only Irish field that will ever produce oil, after Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan moved earlier this year to ban licences for new exploration and extraction.