Neil Young is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Elixir Energy Ltd (ASX:EXR), an oil and gas exploration and development company. It is focused on exploring in Mongolia for natural gas in the form of coal-bed methane (CBM). In Australia, CBM is also known as coal seam gas (CSG).
What’s your journey in becoming a CEO?
I’ve worked for about 25 years in the energy sector in various business development, commercial and financial roles – both upstream (for oil and gas companies large and small) and also downstream (in areas such as electricity generation and gas trading). I became the CEO of Elixir in 2018 following a back-door listing of a Mongolian focused gas exploration company I founded nearly a decade ago.
There are many different journeys one can take in becoming a CEO – mine was one of an entrepreneur rather than a professional manager.
Tell us a bit about your business and how you are commercializing?
We are exploring for gas (in the form of coal bed methane – CBM) in Southern Mongolia – i.e. just North of the Chinese border. We are the first company to do so in the country and earlier this year announced Mongolia’s first gas discovery. If we discover a suitably large resource then of course it could be pipelined South – as well as supply diverse local markets.
Australia is the global leader in CBM. It ships gas to China and other Asian countries by boat and faces a much higher delivered cost structure than gas discovered in Mongolia would.
How are you managing with the current COVID-19 pandemic on both business and personal front?
I was last in Mongolia in late January and even at that stage the country was becoming very active in controlling its borders to keep the virus out. It has been remarkably successful in doing so to date. We are getting on with our exploration & delineation program – with a new drilling and seismic campaign starting in July. Our local staff and sub-contractors have the experience and capabilities to manage the program, notwithstanding international travel restrictions.
What’s the most exciting thing about running your business?
Seeing the company progress from what was just a vision of replicating Australia’s CBM experience in Mongolia into one of conducting real work on the ground – and now making our first discovery. That would not have been possible without developing very close business relationships inside Mongolia – with people I am now very pleased to call good friends.
How do you measure success?
As CEO of a listed company the share price is constantly in your face – as you manage investors’ monies which they are naturally very keen to see grow. However, the longer-term measure of success I would most like to see is validation of our endeavours by delivering the outcomes of a successful exploration program to a much larger company with the balance sheet and capabilities to undertake a major gas development.
What do you think is the most important quality of being a CEO of a listed company?
The key challenge for a CEO is dealing with the fact that the proverbial buck stops with you and you have a wide range of stakeholders with different aims who need to be juggled – whilst still focusing on the good of the company as a whole. That needs resilience and empathy – but ultimately you have to lead, which means making decisions that cannot please everyone.
What is your favourite book?
I’ve been reading the successive volumes of Robert A Caro’s Years of Lyndon Johnson for more than 30 years – a masterpiece of not only political biography but also the history of America – and a study in the eternal moral conflict between means and ends.
What message do you want to send to our readership in Asia?
I think our company’s asset and strategy will particularly resonate with an Asian readership that is intimately familiar with the ever-growing economic interactions between China and the Eastern Asian region. If readers think China would like to satisfy more of its rapidly growing gas demand from the likes of Mongolia rather than e.g. America – then there is no lower priced way of playing that theme than buying EXR shares.
How can people connect with you?
Company Website: https://www.elixirenergy.net.au/