Monday, April 20, 2020

What Just Happened?

The phone was buzzing today!  The oil industry just had its 9/11 moment with much more likely to come. Many traders had been stating that today could happen as the oil contracts approached their expiration point.  The experts can explain what happened much better than I can. I've provided a link below to a good thorough explanation.

Many don't realize that the industry had major issues prior to the Saudi/Russia price war and the coronavirus.  Fifty dollars per barrel was going to be a problem due to our massive debt load.  My prior posts cover that topic in detail. 

Well beyond our industry, we have an interesting road ahead where "debt and derivatives" will cause much chaos.  I call them the "Two D's".  The world's financial system is now very complex and when people use the term "complex instruments", be worried.  Watch the movie "The Big Short" tonight to refresh your memory of what can go wrong when the derivatives "canoe" tips.

Be safe.  Be smart.  Be kind.  Be patient.  Stay healthy.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Marathon Crowell #2 - Update

I wish I had some encouraging news on the Louisiana Austin Chalk.  A recent test has been released on SONRIS.  On March 24, the well produced 1007 bopd, 7083 mcfgd, and 13127 bwpd.  The water is extremely high which was my concern for this area.  The water/oil ratio is exactly the same that the field has produced historically.  The oil and gas rates are similar to some of the better offset wells.  The question I have at this point is "what impact did the frac have?".  More data in the months ahead will tell us more.  Let's hope for a positive change.  We need it!

Source: SONRIS

"We'll know a lot more in 90 days about rates, pressure, decline, and water."

"This region of the play in Louisiana illustrates much lower resistivities than seen in the prolific trend of Texas and the LA-EAST in Louisiana.  One reason for that could be higher water saturations in the chalk reservoir.  The field historically produced 13.6 barrels of water to every barrel of oil.  That's an extremely high water ratio.  Disposing of water is expensive and impacts the overall economics. One of the risk factors is that a large-proppant frac could increase the water volumes."

"At these production rates, it's impossible to have positive economics at these DHC/CC costs.  At $1.82/mcf gas, natural gas is a tough place to be.  The gas-oil ratio is much higher than the wells on strike.  The API gravity at 52 is quite a bit higher than the adjacent well to the north (47).  The water cut, as forecasted, is very high.  This will be important to observe over the months to come."

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Attitude Is Everything

To those who have recently lost their job and to those who could in the future, hang in there.  If you love what you do, get creative on how you can stay in the industry.  I’ve been in the business for 34 years and continue to believe that it’s the best industry in America.  We know tenacity, resilience, persistence, and survival better than any other industry.  Think of ways to build on your great technical degrees and experience.  Now might be a great time to expand your knowledge into some emerging technology like analytics, robotics, virtual reality, or artificial intelligence.  Become the next guru in an emerging field or niche.  Now that you’re home-bound, find some online classes to take.  Dream big.

The petroleum industry has some fierce cycles.  My dad was a geologist and I recall the great boom in the 70’s and 80’s.  I graduated from LSU with my B.S. in Geology in December, 1985 right when oil crashed from $33 to $10.  Our senior geology class was the largest ever with 79 students.  Only 3 of us are in the industry today.  I chose to continue the geological path to graduate school.  It was a great time to advance my studies.  I was fortunate to hire on at Amoco on 8/8/88 right after a layoff.  When I asked the senior geologist what the letters “OLDS” meant that were written on the paperweight on my drafting table, he said “that’s the name of the geologist you replaced!”.  I guess I was a bargain at $35,000 per year in 1988.

This current correction/downturn/cleansing/collapse could be a record-setter on many levels.  We have the “triple whammy” of massive debt, rapid collapse in commodity prices (oil & natgas), and an unprecedented, overnight, worldwide shutdown of transportation.  I recently called it a “perfect storm”, but a “thousand-year flood” might eventually be more appropriate.  This is going to take a while to sort out.  I believed that our debt was a major hurdle for many companies at $50/barrel.  I don’t see a way-forward for high-debt companies at $20 per barrel.  

We’ve also learned that we aren’t the “new” Saudi Arabia.  Conventional oil flows much easier and at a much lower cost.

As always, at the end of all manias, the yahoos appear stating their “new found” expertise.  It’s the “bottom of the 9th inning” and the “armchair quarterbacks” arrive just in time!  I would argue that manias usually draw in close to 90% of the participants.  Greed can be a strong magnet.  We all owned a DotCom stock.  Herding mammals love a good stampede.  Toilet paper anyone??? 

If you didn’t participate in the last 10-13 years of unconventional reservoirs’ emergence, then you missed out on one of the most exciting times in the history of the industry.  New technology and new plays all over the country.  I had to advance my geochemical and petrophysical skill sets.  It was a wild ride.

Some continue to rant about “stopping the drilling”.  Yes, if you’re bankrupt, stop drilling.  If your well is uneconomic, don’t drill it. But, stopping the drilling does not make debt disappear.  In fact, when drilling stops, unconventional reservoir income declines rapidly and there goes the cashflow.  With a large debt load, it really doesn’t matter.  The math doesn’t add up.  If we stopped drilling for a year and prices rose, it’s way too late for many companies to service their massive debt load.  Game over.  The larger issue could be oil company defaults that impact the financial system.  Keep an eye on JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo.

We might see the most dramatic M&A era of our careers in the coming 6-24 months.  Current market caps are amazingly low. Exxon is at it’s 2004 price.  Fifteen years wiped out.  As always in the late stage of a debt cycle, “cash will be king”. 

On that note, the Occidental acquisition of Anadarko will go down as one of the worst acquisitions in the history of the industry.…..before the latest price collapse.  It was a horrible deal structure and over-valuation.  As I’ve said before, it will be the TimeWarner-AOL deal for our industry.  If you’ve been bragging about your crush on the Occidental CEO, you might switch your crush to The Oracle of Omaha, Carl, or the Chevron management team that negotiated a $1 billion breakup fee.  Yes, one babababillion!  I got a $10,000 breakup fee once, but $1 billion!!  Extraordinary.  The unfortunate aspect of the failed Occidental deal is that future female candidates might not get consideration for the CEO role. Hopefully not.  Maybe the return of Mr. Chazen will save the day.

In summary, I believe that we learn the most about ourselves in the “valleys”.  Associate with positive people face-to-face and online.  Don’t let all of the negativity and “armchair quarterbacks” get you down.  Set some new goals and take advantage of this “recess”.
Good luck!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Perfect Storm

It's been quite a week across the world.  Many are asking "what is going on?".  I believe that we're experiencing a "perfect storm" from many parallel fronts.

The oil industry is suffering greatly and it’s starting to feel like 1986 and 1991.  My dad was a geologist so I've grown up in this business.  I graduated from geology undergrad in December 1985 when oil crashed from $33 to $9.  I've spent 34 years enjoying this "rollercoaster".

"How did I get here?"
Once In A Lifetime, The Talking Heads

The unconventional resource boom started with the Barnett Shale in the Fort Worth, Texas area.  George Mitchell and Mitchell Energy spent 20 years researching and developing the Barnett Shale.  They were the pioneer shale "code crackers" which led to a frenzy across the industry for the past 17 years.  The initial focus was natural gas in shales.  Natural gas, due to the smaller molecules, can produce easier in low permeable reservoir rock.  
During this time, the "two worlds" of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracing/fracking) came together.  The industry has been performing vertical frac jobs for 80 years.  Performing this procedure in a horizontal wellbore was the "new new thing".  

Following the initial shale boom, several other rock types became targets so the industry "lumped" them under the title "unconventional reservoirs".  For instance, the Eagle Ford Shale is technically a limestone.  This "unconventional" nomenclature is mostly attributed to the low permeability in the rock.  Oil and gas are trapped, and fracturing the rock enables the gas and fluids to be released.  Following the shale gas boom, tight oil reservoirs were then experimented with and the oil shale boom took off in 2009 starting with the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.

The great success in the gas shales (Barnett, Fayetteville, Haynesville, Marcellus, and Utica) resulted in a significant increase in U.S. gas production.  This increase in supply unfortunately coincided with the timing of the "mortgage crisis" in 2008/09 and subsequently natural gas prices crashed from their all-time high.  They've never fully recovered and are currently at a significant low ($1.93/mcf).

This same phenomena, of a rapidly increasing supply, has now occurred in the U.S. oil market.  The industry, once again, is a victim of its own success.  Supply and demand are simple economic concepts.  A rapid increase in supply will drive commodity prices downward.

Many don't understand that the "low hanging fruit" fossil fuels are "long gone" in the United States.  Hydraulic fracturing is a very expensive process.  Wells can cost $6-14 million. Significant volumes of water, sand, and chemicals are required to successfully cause the reservoir to produce at high rates.  The industry has done an amazing job at improving the technology, increasing efficiencies, and lowering the costs.  In contrast though, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, Iran, China, and many other nations are still producing the "easy" hydrocarbons.  The United States is in a much later stage of development that is more technologically challenging and expensive.

During all "manias", money "falls from the sky".  The unconventional resource boom has been no different.  Wall Street, private equity firms, private investors, and banks opened their checkbooks in a big way.  

I consider the Mitchell Energy "research and development effort" to be Phase 1 of the Unconventional Reservoir Mania.  Phase 2 was the great "land rush".  It might have been the greatest and largest "land grab" of all time.  My two strongest memories from the early part of this phase both occurred in the Haynesville Shale.  In 2006, Chesapeake Energy, leased the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport for $10,000 per acre.  Many considered that both impossible and insane.  Later in North Louisiana, some mineral owners received lease offers of $23,000 per acre.  Some actually declined and greatly regretted it.  Pigs get fat.  Hogs get slaughtered.  Chesapeake hasn't been profitable in over 12 years and they're heading towards bankruptcy for a reason.  

Over the past thirteen years, a massive amount of capital has been invested in leases and drilling.  Not very different from the DotCom and Tulip manias, "2nd and 3rd movers" paid way too much to "enter the game".  Two years ago, I represented a mineral owner and we sold their minerals for $52,000/acre in the Midland Basin....absolute insanity!  Other deals we closed were $23,000/acre in the Eagle Ford.  In the North Louisiana Terryville play....$10,000/acre.  All seemed historically crazy to me.  

I call Phase 3 of the era, "HBP the Units".  HBP stands for "held by production".  After leasing, the oil companies have to drill one well in each unit to hold the acreage.  For example, if an operator has 100,000 acres in a play with unit sizes averaging 1000 acres, they have to drill 100 wells to HBP all of their acreage.  If they paid $8,000 per acre, then they invested and risked $800 million.  If the wells average $9 million each, then they risked an additional $900 million.  That totals $1.7 billion of investment and risk!

Phase 4 is the development stage where multiple wells are drilled per unit.  The early Wall Street mantra was "production growth".  This caused a drilling frenzy across all of the economically proven plays.  Despite the per-well economics, companies signed multi-rig contracts and responded to Wall Street's call.  About 15 months ago, Wall Street pivoted overnight to "free cash flow" (FCF).  They wanted profitable wells and production growth.  Even at $50-60 per barrel, free cash flow was not possible in many plays.  Also, each play has a spread of Tier 1, 2, and 3 acreage. All reservoir rock is not created equal....and its thickness changes across a play.  The rapid shift to FCF had an immediate negative impact to many companies.  The recent drop in oil prices greatly exacerbates this negative cashflow.

An additional challenge has been that the offset wells are not achieving the results that the oil companies have not only published, but have also "booked" as reserves.  Oil companies are valued based on their hydrocarbon reserves.  

The industry denotes the first well in a unit as the "parent" well.  The offsets are the "child" wells.  For example, a company might have "booked" reserves for eight wells per unit.  The early stage development indicates that only four are needed.  The company now has to adjust its booked reserves.  For most of the industry, this downward adjustment hasn't even occurred yet.  That's a future "tidal wave" to come.  Chevron just wrote down $5 billion of acreage (750,000 acres) in the Marcellus play.  This dates back to 2010 when they acquired Atlas Energy.  Yes, $5 billion of capital destruction.  Chevron is a very good, large operator.

Now in Phase 4, we have an industry "drowning" in a massive amount of debt.  Imagine if you had $20,000 on your credit card and you can't pay the minimum payment due.  That's where many companies are today.  They can't "drill" their way out of debt.  They can't fund new wells at this current price.  Once the drilling stops, the production and income declines rapidly.  Game over.  Chapter 11 or be bought or merged for "pennies on the dollar".  Shareholders and investors lose.  Some companies like Halcon have already filed Chapter 11 twice!  They call that Chapter 22.

I compare the "overheated" Anadarko purchase by Oxy to the Time Warner-AOL purchase in the DotCom era.  At the time, it was the "deal of the century".  It marked the peak of the DotCom era.  Oxy's deal structure will likely doom the company.  Anadarko was a really good company with a nice, diverse asset portfolio both domestic and international.  Think of the great movie assets that Time Warner had.

Congrats once again to the Oracle of Omaha....preferred stock with a 8% dividend! He'll be the only one that makes a profit.  Mr. HotTakeOfTheDay is very wrong on this one....way before the oil crash.  Also, congrats to Chevron for exhibiting great discipline.

Even if oil were $60 per barrel, there are many companies that have "no way out".  The pure gas players are really in trouble at $1.93 per thousand cubic feet.  The massive supply of U.S. natural gas will be an issue for many years to come.  Once again, we're a victim of our own success.  

Hopefully, one day, Americans will realize what creates electricity!!!!

One interesting fact to note is the number of multi-generation "oil families" that cashed out over the past few years:
That's almost $10 billion....thanks Grandad!

Due to the very contentious political environment the past few years, I've concluded that some have greatly overstated the impact of the U.S. unconventional production.  The statements that the U.S. is "oil independent" is nonsense.  This week we were reminded of the facts.  Saudi and Russia are still easily flowing conventional oil and can "turn the faucet on" as needed.  The U.S. public also doesn't realize that the flow rates of hydraulically fractured reservoirs decline very rapidly.  A well that starts at 1000 barrels of oil per day will likely produce 200-300 barrels a day a year later.  Conventional (high permeability) reservoirs produce at a much slower decline.

Nassim Taleb coined the term "black swan" when he released his book of the same name in 2007.  The simple explanation is that it represents an unpredictable and unforeseen event.  Some examples are 9/11, Mortgage Crisis, WWI, and the Soviet Union collapse.  The recent Covid-19 virus expansion represents the latest example.  Who would have thought that a flu-like virus could contribute to the collapse of oil prices?

The rapid spread of the virus has caused an abrupt and significant halt of transportation in many countries including China, Italy, and Iran.  Decreasing transportation means decreasing oil demand which results in price decline for petroleum.  We're very likely just at the beginning of this phenomenon.  Many "lock downs" are occurring across the globe including the U.S.  Google recommended that all of their U.S. staff work from home.

Saudi Arabia has been going through a transition of power to their younger generation of princes.  Thirty-five year old, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is now in charge. He took over power in 2017 and has made some aggressive moves.  On several occasions he has detained and arrested family members through a power struggle.

Vladimir Putin requires no introduction.  He has been the official and unofficial leader of Russia for over 20 years.  Just recently, he has backed changes to the Russian constitution which would allow him to remain as head of state until 2036.  The theory that he and President Trump are best friends might now be debated.  

Since 1960, OPEC has been a cartel controlling worldwide oil prices.  Russia is not a member and this past week they declared war on OPEC by not agreeing to decreasing oil production for the purpose of increasing the price of oil.  Who knows where this will lead?  It's financial suicide for both countries.

Do you really want to know?
Yesterday morning Marathon called it quits on the Crowell 3H-1 well.  After ten days of challenges including fishing a metal object and a failed casing test, the company decided to abandon the drilling until a later date.  They were still in the vertical hole after 35 days of drilling.  Even if oil were $100/barrel, this area has drilling challenges.  Mr. CEO Tillman, please don't shoot the messenger!

You can't blame them for "taking a breather" after the past week's developments in oil prices.  Let's hope that the Crowell #2 exhibits some good production over the months ahead and, with higher prices, activity will return.  

It will be interesting to see what they decide to do with their 500 square mile 3D acquisition project that is currently underway.  I would stop acquisition today and process/interpret what you have.  Shoot 100 square miles over your Tier 1 area, drill some wells, and then add more through time.  In an area with no additional large targets, the size of this 3D shoot has baffled me from the beginning.  Maybe another example of too much capital being available.

Who knows where all of this will lead?  There are so many factors involved and no one has the magical "crystal ball".  One of my favorite "calm geniuses" is Ray Dalio.  His track record is astonishing and he understands economics and market cycles better than most.  

If you want to follow someone who really understands the oil markets, check out my old Amoco colleague Art Berman.  He called all of this from the beginning.  Many "yahoos" have showed up in the last six months claiming expertise.  Art also had the courage to fight the mainstream headwinds.  Being a geologist, I stick to the rocks, logs, and maps.  Predicting future prices is not my thing.

The good news, from my perspective, is that on the "backend" of manias, some very good companies result.  Think of Ford Motor during the initial automobile boom.  Amazon resulted from the DotCom boom.  When the smoke clears in Phase 4 of the Unconventional Era, we'll have some very strong oil companies producing hydrocarbons for decades.  That will be very important for the United States.  We represent 4.25% of the earth's population yet consume over 20% of the energy.  Houston we have a big problem....Our "supersize me" mentality has to end.

As Coach Bernich used to say "it's time to buckle your chinstraps boys!".

I hope that this "high level" rant was informative.  Follow up with your own research.  Stay positive, informed, creative, and wise my friends!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Austin Chalk Update - LA-WEST and TX-EAST

The "big buzz" at NAPE last week in our "little world" was that the Marathon Crowell #2 is producing much better than the initial potential released on SONRIS.  The published test appears to be early in the post-frac flowback.  On SONRIS, a new allowable has been added showing "2300" indicating 2300 bopd.  That's a major improvement from 210 bopd.  Everyone who's been on this blog for years knows that I don't post rumors.  There are many "chat rooms" filled with that.  The facts will always eventually be distributed via the state's regulatory bodies. 

Marathon Crowell #2 (Source: SONRIS)

The rumored rates are consistent with the closest well, the Mcright #11.  In 1997, this well had an initial rate of 1536 bo and 4600 mcf.  Rumored rates are about 50% above this.  The Mcright #11 produced 179 mbo and 0.78 bcf.  Let's hope that the frac impacts a significant amount of matrix porosity.  We'll know a lot more in 90 days about rates, pressure, decline, and water.
Good luck to Marathon! 

I also heard at NAPE that Navidad Resources has had a positive initial test in southern Brookland Field in Tyler County, Texas.  I've not seen an official release for that one.

Let's hope for some significant improvement in commodity prices!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Monday, February 3, 2020

Marathon Crowell #2 Result

The Marathon Crowell #2 completion result is about where I forecasted based on the offset production.  

COMPLETED 1/21/2020 AS AN OIL WELL W/ 210 BOPD; 1650 MCFD; 8200 FTP; 6063 SITP; 1300 CP; 18/64" CK; 3343 BWPD; 94% BS&W; 7857; GVTY 52 API; PERF: 16,157'-22,372'

At these production rates, it's impossible to have positive economics at these DHC/CC costs.  At $1.82/mcf gas, natural gas is a tough place to be.  The gas-oil ratio is much higher than the wells on strike.  The API gravity at 52 is quite a bit higher than the adjacent well to the north (47).  The water cut, as forecasted, is very high.  This will be important to observe over the months to come.

The prior post below provides some extensive details on the area and the outlook for this well.

"Having interpreted the 3D seismic on the west side of the field, I can state that the prolific producers there were always proximal to down-to-the-basin faults where fracture clusters are greatest.  To date, all acres haven't been created equal in this field."
"The Marathon Crowell #2 is on strike with poor to decent producers, but has good producers to the northwest.  Note that the offset wells produce primarily natural gas which is currently selling at $2.83/mcf."
"Both wells will likely be in the 4000 range.  Gas will greatly assist producing from the low porosity and permeability, but at the current market prices, oil is a better strategic and economic target."
"This region of the play in Louisiana illustrates much lower resistivities than seen in the prolific trend of Texas and the LA-EAST in Louisiana.  One reason for that could be higher water saturations in the chalk reservoir.  The field historically produced 13.6 barrels of water to every barrel of oil.  That's an extremely high water ratio.  Disposing of water is expensive and impacts the overall economics. One of the risk factors is that a large-proppant frac could increase the water volumes."  

Monday, January 27, 2020

No News Is.......

Prime Rock's rig, the Ensign 777, had its challenges as I forecasted.  The Crosby 10H-1 took 83 days to reach total depth.  As stated prior, this was an ambitious first well with a long measured depth planned.

Let's hope for a great completion with more oil than projected.  $1.91/mcf natural gas isn't going to help this region of the play.  The rig will be heading back to Marathon to spud their third well.

Prime Rock Crosby 10H-1     Source: SONRIS

"The deeper, more pressured region of the play, will have drilling challenges. Those challenges can be very costly as we saw in Marathon's Crowell #1." 
LAMS Stack & Austin Chalk Blog, November 7, 2019

"These are deep wells with TVD's of 16200' and 15332'.   Both of these wells will be expensive so large volumes of hydrocarbons need to be produced. Marathon proved on the Crowell #1 that drilling in this high pressure environment is very challenging."
LAMS Stack & Austin Chalk Blog, November 6, 2019

"This is a deep, ambitious well on the southern end of Masters Creek Field.  It will test the concepts of depletion, high pressure, and water production."
LAMS Stack & Austin Chalk Blog, October 1, 2019

"Pressure 'is your friend' when producing low perm reservoirs, but it's not easy to drill through."
LAMS Stack & Austin Chalk Blog, March 28, 2019

Source: SONRIS

Source: SONRIS

Source: SONRIS