Millions of barrels of untapped oil that U.S. shale drillers discovered during the boom years are about to disappear from their inventories. Six years ago, the industry pushed the Securities and Exchange Commission to make it easier for companies to claim proved reserves for wells that wouldn’t be drilled for years. Some prospects considered sure-things when crude was $95 a barrel are money losers at today’s $60. When crude crashed in 2008, 44 U.S. companies wiped 630 million barrels from their books. Now the stakes are higher. Of all the proved reserves of oil and natural gas liquids found by the 44 companies since 2008, more than half -- 5.4 billion barrels out of the 9.7 billion -- is attributed to wells that don’t exist yet, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “We’re going to see a lot of proved undeveloped reserves get vaporized,” said Ed Hirs, a managing director at Houston-based Hillhouse Resources LLC, an independent energy company, who also teaches energy economics at the University of Houston. “It could easily be 10 or 20 years before some of these wells get drilled if prices stay at these levels.”
Everyone knows the oil and gas value chain, I have drawn it for countless investor and strategy presentations, from my days in short trousers in BP's Corporate Planning Department to yet another roadshow presentation for investors. Here is one I had prepared earlier, no need to draw the picture yet again.
Working forwards it is all pretty obvious, first of all you get the acreage, then you explore - shoot seismic and drill a discovery well, boom success. That is the investment story of most E&P juniors, that is capital E and small p juniors.
Working backwards, it is pretty straightforward too, producing oil and gas is how most oil companies get their revenue, and developing discoveries (drilling wells and installing production facilities) is what you need to do to get production going. But what is that appraisal stage in the middle? That can't be all that important, surely the exploration company finds the oil and sells it on to a major who develops it.
Well not quite, in my opinion, after the moment the bit penetrates a reservoir for the first time and the geoscientists' dreams are put to the test, the appraisal stage is the most critical step in the whole process. It is where all the decisions are made that shape how profitable the development project will be. There is also a lot of money to be spent delineating the discovery and gathering the data that enables those decisions to be made.
You may have noticed that the public utility regulator in Poland recently reduced the tariff a further 3.6%, which will be effective for the months of May through July of this year. This tariff is set to expire at the end of July, and we have no guidance beyond that date. In addition, as we discussed during our last call, lower U.S. dollar prices and revenues also will flow through our credit facility calculations, and our credit facility in turn could have a material positive or negative impact on the funds available for capex. The average gas price received in Poland for the first quarter of 2015 was $5.96 per Mcf, compared to $7.42 per Mcf for the first quarter of 2014, a decrease of 20%, which we estimated during our last call.
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