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An oil pumpjack sits unused in a field North of Edmonton Alberta February 8, 2013. Canadian federal and provincial governments are set to lose $14-billion in revenue, according to the Conference Board of CanadaJason Franson/The Globe and Mail

It's the worst energy market in years, yet Paul Charron is starting up another oil and gas company.

The Calgary oil man has made a good living building and selling private companies, all named CanEra. Now he's embarking on the third one, with backing from two of the most prominent U.S. private equity firms focused on energy.

This month, Riverstone Holdings LLC and NGP Energy Capital Management committed $465-million to Mr. Charron's CanEra III. He is looking for assets in a Canadian oil patch that is in contraction mode due to the collapse in crude prices.

"They've both just raised significant funds and they look at this environment, really, as an opportunity – if we can be patient, smart and acquire the right type of asset at the right time," said Mr. Charron, who sold the last incarnation of CanEra to Crescent Point Energy Corp. last spring for $750-million.

The launch follows an increasingly popular script in Canadian energy that features a growing role for private equity to build up businesses outside of the demands of public shareholders clamouring for quarterly growth. That has become even more key with the steep drops in nearly all public company share prices since June.

Private investors have identified numerous experienced management teams, and have given them the capital they need to acquire acreage, develop drilling plans and eventually cash out. In cases such as CanEra's, they have been repeat performances.

Private equity's interest expands well beyond exploration and production. These firms are also building up positions in energy infrastructure, as shown by the deal for Encana Corp.'s Montney pipeline and processing assets. In December 2014, Veresen Inc. partnered with New York-based buyout firm KKR & Co LP to make the $412-million acquisition.

Energy and deal experts expect such partnerships to become more popular, as specialists in that part of the industry can operate assets efficiently and private equity players can contribute capital for expansion.

A number of big private-equity firms are seeking to profit from the oil-price rout. In recent months, several players have sought to raise billions for new vehicles dedicated to energy investments. Blackstone Group is said to have finished raising $4.5-billion (U.S.) for a new energy fund.

Others such as Riverstone are eyeing bargains in the bond business as a result of the collapse in energy prices. This month it launched Riverstone Credit Opportunities, LP, a portfolio company backed by $375-million that plans to invest directly in companies and in "capital relief" opportunities, according to a statement. Similarly, Apollo Global Management is reportedly looking to raise capital for a new fund to buy the debt of struggling oil and gas companies.

The sharp drop in oil prices since June has exacerbated the strain at companies already facing financial difficulty, setting up potential deals as a result of corporate restructurings and asset sales. All it takes is capital and the financial wherewithal to make purchases at the bottom of the cycle.

"This is a great time to have capital to invest in the energy business, because of the opportunities that come at that lower cost," said Pentti Karkkainen, founder of KERN Partners, which counts Altex Energy Ltd., Cequence Energy Ltd. and Black Swan Energy Ltd. among its investments.

"These are the kinds of environments where people should be thinking about putting money into the sector, as opposed to when oil's at a much loftier level," he added.

Not all private equity plans work out. Aspenleaf Energy Ltd., backed by ARC Financial Corp., devised a rescue plan for debt-hobbled junior producer Arcan Resources Ltd. last summer, but the plan was rejected by major bondholders. They had complained their holdings would fetch just a portion of their face value, while Aspenleaf would end up with the majority of Arcan's assets.

Still, dealmakers say private equity could offer an exit ramp from public markets for some mid-sized companies.

For his part, Mr. Charron knows both the private and public worlds, having been CEO of Canetic Resources Trust, which the predecessor of Penn West Petroleum Ltd. bought in 2007 for $3.6-billion.

CanEra III has yet to acquire assets, and management are currently scouting out opportunities in oil production though they are not rushing into their first deal. They have the luxury of time, while much of the Canadian energy sector seeks ways to keep its finances from dwindling .

"Private [capital], in many ways, allows you to be quite patient, " CanEra's Mr. Charron said.