#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

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

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For the past 41 years Roy Jackson, CEO at Energy OnRamp, has been involved in the oil and gas industry and made a name for himself as a someone who can make and create deals between buyers and sellers.

In today’s episode, we asked Roy what is the key to lasting so long in the industry when it’s such an up and down adventure.

As you hear Roy speak, one gets the feeling that he was born to sell, which explains how he’s made a career out of connecting buyers and sellers in any part of the industry. Beginning at Schlumberger in the 70s, and moving into the oil and gas software space in the 1990s, Roy began to notice that his role in the industry was more than connecting people to solutions.

Solutions were no longer enough. He had to help them make the best decisions for their business if they’re going to survive.

“Energy companies are generating a large amount of data,” Jackson said. “You have these entrepreneurial guys who are getting private equity capital from somewhere, buy assets and then all of a sudden, along with the closing of that deal, they realize they don’t have any assets, and in 60 days we’re going to have to do revenue distribution and joint interest billings.”

These entrepreneurs would have to go hire someone and train them on the basics of the industry, and then everything around setting up that company revolved around regulatory reporting for the state and for setting up revenue distributions, he said.

“I was discovering that people never truly got the system set up correctly years later after running into them and that they never knew how to set up the management and reporting system the way they wanted to,” Jackson said.

Now they were going to throw everything out and start over on a new system.

To expedite or stop businesses from going through the long and excruciating process, he said, he started his new consulting firm Energy OnRamp to help companies take their financial data, get it into a system that works for them and help them understand how to present that data so its “attractive for bank capital, a private investor or whatever it takes to drill and capture the kind of opportunities that come in the energy industry,” Jackson said.

“Our team gives your business the tools within your own system or another system so that you can get the info you need to get the capital you need, and to make better management decisions to manage the multi-million dollar assets.”

As we know in the industry, wells aren’t cheap to drill.

Unconventional well plays cost millions of dollars to operate, displacing many smaller independents from participating. Like what we’re seeing with our own clients in the industry, many operators are selling wells because they are reaching retirement age and there is not generation coming up behind them to take over, so they’re forced to sell.

On the flip side, a lot of wells are either combining with bigger forces to go all in on unconventional plays or picking up conventional wells that larger companies are offloading to support these unconventional drills, and find themselves suddenly with new wells to operate 30-60 days after purchase.

So what makes a company able to stay afloat, even when oil prices skyrocket above $100/bbl or plummet to $9/bbl?

Roy’s answer: “The simple answer is that you just have to stay.  I can’t tell you the number off landmen and geologists, that sacked groceries at Wal-Mart when Midland was not near as prosperous, but they’re reaping big-time benefits for being patient. Stay and find a new way to make a living during the slow down period.

“What we’ve been doing in Midland for the past 40 years is to figure out how to stay in the oil and gas business. Oil and gas people are some of the best entrepreneurs. It makes me proud to be in the oil and gas business.”

Connect with Roy Jackson: 

Based in Midland, Texas
Roy Jackson is the founder of Energy OnRamp and over his 41-year career in oil and gas has demonstrated the ability to develop opportunities for his clients.

Starting his career in “the patch” in 1977, Roy started developing his energy network with tenures at Schlumberger, National Oilwell (Bowen) and Homco International. He has directed the sales and marketing efforts at energy software companies involved in upstream accounting, including Midland Southwest Software (OGAS) and WolfePak.

Mr. Jackson has extensive experience in the acquisitions & divestment of oil and gas assets. Jackson has successfully completed over 200 transactions, totaling over one half billion dollars in oil and gas upstream, midstream and service-related assets. He was the co-founder of Capital Energy Advisors and Simon Energy Advisors. Jackson also was formerly a principal partner at Simplex Energy Solutions in Midland, TX.

Roy is a member of PBPA, ADAM Permian, and SPE. He is also past chairman of FEPA, a Permian focused networking forum for the Energy Industry.

Energy OnRamp consults on accounting, production, and anything bringing data in from the field and anything that is back office related to running an operating, service or midstream company.

Listen to the previous episode: #001: How the Oil and Gas Industry Survives Year After Year

Check out the next episode: #003: How COPAS Transformed Mike Cougevan’s Career

#001: How the Oil and Gas Industry Survives Year After Year

Twenty-five years ago, co-host Phil Sherwood, started a software company called SherWare, Inc. to optimize the accounting and distribution processes for oil and gas operators to save them time and money, two things we need plenty of in the oil and gas industry.

When he started the business, the price of oil was around $15 a barrel and over the course of his career, it’s gone down to $9 and as high as $100.

Through all the ups and downs, We’re Still Here, and like so many clients and friends in the industry — so are you.

So what makes a business be able to withstand the unpredictable market conditions? What characteristics does the CEO have to have? What are the tactics and secrets they’ve used to be successful no matter what?

This is exactly what we want to uncover and inspire on this podcast.

Each episode will feature guest interviews and episodes to showcase the best and brightest in the industry and find out how they’ve thrived in a volatile market and what the future of the industry looks like to them.

We’ll also be showcasing business ideas, tips, tricks for scaling and growing — you happen to be in the oil and gas industry, but you’re running and growing a business and in order to continually expand, you have to think differently and be ready to grow with your team.

At the end of the day, we want you to be able to say, “We’re Still Here” no matter what happens around you.

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