#003: How COPAS Transformed Mike Cougevan’s Career

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What do nearly 40 years in the oil and gas industry look like and how do you keep interested in what you’re doing year after year?

Mike Cougevan, oil and gas auditor for Martindale Consultants has been in the oil and gas industry for 37 years and happened upon his career choice by accident.

With no firm plan to retire (unless he wins the lottery), Cougevan has gotten to know the industry from the inside out thanks to his active role at COPAS (Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies) and his storied career in finance, revenue accounting and now auditing.

After getting a finance degree, one of the first interviews was with Conoco, Amaco and a couple of banks. Simply because Conoco seemed to offer the best job and have a strong growth plan, he accepted the position without knowing anything about the oil business.

Some of his roles have included working on the AFE desk as financial analyst handling operating expense budgets for the field, creating and getting AFEs approved with the non-operators, profit loss analysis for the fields.

He spent time in Midland, Texas, and managed revenue accounting before being transferred to Lafayette, La., to be in charge of non-operated properties in the Gulf of Mexico which included scheduling and handling audits, negotiation agreements and paying JIBs.

When the company began restructuring in the 90s, Cougevan didn’t love his relocation opportunities and began working for Martindale Consultants, and took on an active role with COPAS.

His recommendations for making the most out of an oil and gas career are to join COPAS and embrace the quick technology changes in the industry.

What in the world is COPAS?
COPAS is unique in that its an organization that writes its own rules and then goes and implements them. Originally started to maintain how accounting was handled for the industry across the states.

It’s not only ideal for accounting and finance professionals, but also small and large independent producers and operators who want to understand if what they’re being told and how they’re running their books is correct.

Benefits of getting involved in COPAS are:
– You understand exactly how to do your job to the best of your ability and accurately.
– You know the nuances and details of what’s included in the Account Procedures and what language is not used and why
– You’re among all the peers in your industry that you’ll be working with for many years if you make a career out of oil and gas

Cougevan helped to write the 2005 Accounting Procedures over a 2.5 year period. He fell in love with the ability to create history and build a document that would solve all the problems the industry faced in earlier accounting documentation that was now outdated because of technological advances.

To this date, no one has been able to find a hole in the document or something that the team forgot to address.

In his time in the industry Cougevan has experienced:
> Carbon paper
> No computers
> Lotus 123
> No copy machines

to now being able to
> Communicate with the wells with
> Use drones to use inspect well sites that pumpers used to have to do
> Increased efficiency thanks to powerful software and tools
> Technology that changes how we find and drill for oil and gas

“It’s so fast, it’s hard to keep up with,” Cougevan said.

Today he works as an auditor that focuses on contract compliance, which basically means anytime there’s a contract in the upstream or midstream sectors, he could be called in to make sure the terms are being held.

“It’s a normal part of a business, but it’s inherently confrontational,” Cougevan said. “It’s also good business sense to kick the tires and do some type of review or get down in the weeds if you’ve had problems with that type of operator to protect your company assets.”

What keeps it interesting nearly 25 years since beginning to audit, is that every job is new.
“It’s like looking at a new jigsaw puzzle every time to look at what the contracts are, look at both sides and what’s happening and determine quickly if it’s correct or not,” he said.

The biggest change he’s seen in his auditing career is that most operators are digital, so he doesn’t have to travel and dig through a paper trail.

Resources Mentioned:


Connect with Mike: 
Martindale Consultants

Mike began his Martindale career in 1995 and is a Vice President of the firm. He provides senior leadership, expertly manages clients’ joint venture compliance and other projects, and shares his extensive industry experience and knowledge with Martindale employees. Mike also provides expert witness and litigation support and been certified as an expert in numerous State courts and in Federal court. Mike previously worked for Conoco (now ConocoPhillips) for 13 years in various positions, including financial analysis, internal reviews, managing non-operated properties, negotiation of agreements, and settlements of joint interest and revenue disputes.

Mike has provided the additional foundation to manage and provide clients with exceptional quality in our compliance reviews. Mike is considered a prominent authority on Gulf of Mexico joint venture accounting issues and has performed international reviews in Australia, Barbados, and Brazil.

Mike’s expertise includes:

  • Testifying as an expert witness in State and Federal court on subjects including joint venture claims and custom and practice in applying exploration agreements, joint operating agreements, and Accounting Procedure provisions in oil and gas operations
  • Overseeing compliance reviews for U.S. and international joint venture projects
  • Overseeing compliance reviews for Gulf of Mexico shelf and Deepwater joint venture projects
  • Overseeing client in-house projects on COPAS Accounting Procedure applications for various joint venture issues
  • Assisting clients in resolving complex joint venture issues for both operated and non-operated ventures.

Mike has actively served in various capacities in the Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies (COPAS). COPAS positions held include:

  • President of COPAS
  • President of COPAS of Acadiana
  • Chair of COPAS of Acadiana Audit committee
  • Chair of the COPAS National Audit committee
  • Chair of the COPAS Emerging Issues subcommittee
  • Two terms (six years)as Director on the COPAS Board of Directors
  • Chair of several COPAS publication Drafting teams
  • Key participant in drafting the COPAS 2005 Accounting Procedure
  • Member of more than 12 COPAS publication drafting teams
  • Recipient of the 2004 COPAS Eagle award
  • Developer of the Knowing Your COPAS Documents (KYCD) educational series
  • Participant on several COPAS special committees and task forces

Mike is an experienced speaker on joint venture oil and gas topics for both public and private audiences and has given presentations to more than 20 different organizations

Check out the prior episode: #002: After 41 years, Roy Jackson has the key to surviving in the oil and gas industry

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