By Alex Leigh
What we think is shaping up to potentially be the last great onshore oil discovery in the world has just announced encouraging results in the first section of its second well in Namibia’s giant Kavango Basin, and modern history suggests that first well successes are rarely reversed.
What looks to have been a brilliantly timed acquisition based on a treasure trove of government-held data few knew existed is now hoping to help reshape poverty-stricken Namibia’s future.
And at a mammoth 8.5 million acres, this basin spans an area comparable to the largest projects in the Lone Star state. And Recon Africa holds petroleum exploration licenses for the entire basin.
If you’re not sure how big 8.5 million acres is, Stocktwits has superimposed it on the State of Florida for perspective:
Recently, some oil majors have been flocking to Africa since it’s considered to be among the last underexplored areas on Earth…
Low production costs in frontier oil plays have led to some exciting opportunities that have helped put countries like Suriname and Guyana on the proverbial map.
And Africa may be the final frontier, with an oil boom emerging as drilling spreads across the continent, according to one report.
But while companies like Shell and Exxon have latched onto offshore opportunities in one of the continent’s most stable and friendliest governments…
We think they completely missed the Namibian government’s treasure trove of data, including a potentially valuable high-quality aeromagnetic survey data that had never been interpreted.
And when this junior discovered what the government had so skillfully acquired…
They scooped up exploration rights for the entire Kavango Basin, giving them exclusive petroleum licenses to an area that’s millions of acres in size.
This may truly be the final frontier of onshore oil exploration, among the last Permian-sized basins that have never been drilled.
And it’s opportunities just like these that have produced impressive gains in recent years for other explorers that made a discovery.
Africa Oil scored 379% gains after reporting a discovery of oil in Kenya.
Valeura Energy Corp’s shares skyrocketed for 1,000% gains after reporting a discovery in Turkey.
Now in Namibia, ReconAfrica is already up 377% in less than a year, having found indicators of the existence of a working petroleum system in its first well (6-2) in April and then encountering oil and gas again in the shallow section of its second drill (6-1), which is still ongoing.
We think it would be flying far north of its 377% gain right now, but naked short sellers appear to have latched onto the stock, producing what look to be hit pieces in a desperate attempt to cover huge naked shorts before potential results confirm what we believe could end up being the last great onshore oil discovery in the world.
The short sellers are running out of time to cover …
Here’s why we think you should be keeping a close eye on Reconnaissance Energy Africa.
First Well Successes Rarely Reverse
On April 15th, Recon Africa (TSXV:RECO, OTC:RECAF) in a joint press release with the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Namibia announced the results of its first of three drills (6-2), showing clear evidence of an active petroleum system for this nearly 9-million-acre basin. The samples provide over 200 meters of light oil and natural gas indicators/shows over three discrete intervals in a stacked sequence of reservoir and source rock.
The results were unexpected by the company as this was just the first of three stratigraphic planned wells, but there would be another surprise just weeks later as RECO got started on its second well …
On June 3rd, the first section of its second well (6-1) provided further evidence of a working petroleum system.
At shallow depths, the well encountered 134 meters of light oil and gas.
“In these first two wells, the many oil and gas shows, with such variety, is certainly remarkable. It is highly encouraging to see clastic and thick carbonate sections which appear to have similar reservoir characteristics as observed in many other petroleum provinces,” ReconAfrica director Dr. Jim Granath said in a statement.
Recon Africa have since put out a further update letting investors know that a further 685 feet of hydrocarbon shows comprising a variety of light oil and natural gas have been discovered so far in the second section of well 2.
With intermediate casing operations reportedly now complete and the company stating that everything is on schedule, RECO expects to finish drilling its 6-1 well during the first week of July.
The company also unveiled its commitment to allocate a minimum of $10 million in ESG expenditures to the Kavango region in which it operates.
While RECO is a high-risk/high-reward oil exploration play, exploration patterns from the past suggest that success in the first wells typically means a high potential of continued success.
The former Vice-President and Head of Global Oil and Gas Research at CIBC World Markets, G. DeWolf Shaw CFA, notes that “during the modern era of the great oil discoveries, a geological success on the first well or a geological failure, was rarely reversed. First wells with successes like 6-2 mean progressively less risk for next 4 wells because of an exponential increase in new data.”
And it helps that RECO has world-class geologists on its team …
The Kavango Basin is an enormous area spanning millions of acres across Namibia and Botswana.
And at 8.50 million acres, that’s nearly the size of the massive Midland Basin in the Permian, which is owned by countless different producers today.
So for this vast area’s exploration licenses to be held by one company is almost unheard of, especially for a junior explorer.
That means the potential upside for this opportunity is unlike most we’ve seen in a decade.
This data reportedly shows that the sedimentary basin could run as deep as 30,000 feet.
That would make it as deep as the Permian Basin in West Texas, which has been estimated to contain a potential 46.3 billion barrels of oil.
And the most exciting part for us is that the majority of any potential production is expected to be conventional, which means no fracking and none of those exorbitant costs associated with unconventional plays.
This could all add up to even greater potential for profits for Recon Africa and their investors, if a major discovery is made.
But while this may be a small-cap explorer, to us there’s nothing small about the names behind it.
When this all began, experienced geological interpreter Bill Cathey said the data on Kavango showed some of the best data he’d ever seen…
“Nowhere in the world is there a sedimentary basin this deep that has not produced commercial quantities of hydrocarbons,” he said.
Then they called in Daniel Jarvie, president of Worldwide Geochemistry LLC and a highly experienced geochemist, previously named “Hart Energy’s Most Influential People for the Petroleum Industry in the Next Decade” in 2010.
After analyzing the data, Jarvie estimated that ReconAfrica could be sitting on a basin that could generate up billions of barrels of oil…
Based on only 12% of their holdings.
These numbers might seem unbelievable, but Jarvie actually said this could be a conservative estimate of potential.
“Given the nature of the basin and the tremendous thickness, this is pretty much a no-brainer…It will be productive and I’m expecting high-quality oil,” he said.
That was before RECO’s first two announcements in April and June.
Now, both Cathey and Jarvie–not to mention the entire RECO team and all of its investors–could be vindicated.
Nick Steinberger, for example, has also joined ReconAfrica’s team as their Senior Vice President, Drilling, and Operations.
After spending over 30 years helping to lead an oil and gas company that was sold for a reported $3.1 billion, he could have gone wherever he liked in the industry.
So to have someone of his caliber on the team speaks volumes about how confident many are in the future of their drilling program. The entire management team are also reported to be shareholders.
Steinberger has observed several similarities between the Kavango and the Permian basin, noting, “It’s the same setting, the same geological time frame, and looks like the same type of thickness.
“The top of the Permian section of Kavango is expected to be 6,000-8,000 feet in depth, which is the same as the Permian in Texas.”
Haywood Securities initiated coverage on RECO in November and has adjusted its price target three times since. They also participated in RECO’s C$25-million bought deal financing. See latest news release…the financing closed at $41+mm
A discovery success, says Haywood, would present manifold opportunities for strategic joint ventures for further de-risking–without additional shareholder dilution. This play “has all the ingredients to establish the existence of a working hydrocarbon system (in a relatively short cycle time) and subsequently evaluate and exploit the potential of the Kavango Basin”, Haywood wrote in its most recent report.
That includes “a fully-funded three well program, nearly 100% working interest in acreage across a vast, relatively straightforward land access, an owned drilling rig, a committed and capable management and technical team, stable governments with attractive fiscal terms and proven commitment to responsible development” … among other things.
Even without the recent positive first and second drill results showing indicators of a petroleum system, Haywood sees material upside as Kavango is further de-risked and have recently moved their short term price target up to $16.00 CAD.
In a further boost of confidence, Wood Mackenzie compared RECO’s Kavango basin to the Midland Basin in Texas which has a development value of $540 billion.
More News Could Be Just Days or Weeks Away
RECO’s second announcement that it encountered indicators of oil and gas in the second drill (6-1) was only in the shallower section…
There’s more to come.
Drill no. 2 is expected to be completed by the end of this month …
And the preliminary analysis of all results from the wells 6-1 and 6-2 are anticipated at the end of July.
From the first well (6-2) over 150 sidewall cores have been taken to Core Labs in Houston and 37 sidewall cores are on their way there as well from the shallower section of the 6-1 well.
Then we’ve got drill three and possibly four which is expected this year, too.
And that’s just in the near term. Further out, the news flow could get even more exciting because this is a huge basin. If a commercial discovery is established in the future, we may be looking at a juicy potential JV deal that could be the biggest reward for investors.
In the meantime, while they’re hoping for great success by turning Kavango into the last major onshore oil play in the world, they’re not forgetting Namibia, and they’re committed to ensuring that the people of Namibia don’t become victims of yet another African “resource curse”.
ReconAfrica isn’t operating in a vacuum here. They seem fully aware of what this could mean to the people of Namibia.
For starters, RECO’s founder Craig Steinke says the carbonates they found so far “look like carbonate rocks seen in northern Africa where basically conventional completion methods will make them productive. No fracking.”
And for Namibia, a huge, conventional oil play could be “transformational”, particularly for the 250,000 people in the Kavango region, 40% of whom live in generational poverty.
“This will provide the local citizens with good-paying jobs, upwardly mobile jobs, that will help pull them out of poverty, provide access to fresh water and basic medical services,” Steinke says. RECO reports it is already employing 200 people in the area.
Water is also a major problem that RECO recognized from the start.
“One of the glaring problems in the region is the local population don’t have the wherewithal to drill water wells but there is a freshwater aquifer right under their feet. They have to walk up to 10 km per day with 45 lbs of water on their heads,” Steinke says.
And to that end, RECO has committed a minimum of C$10 million for ESG expenditures in Namibia.
As soon as RECO’s rig hit the ground in Kavango, the company reported it set up shop with the local authorities to drill water wells. They’ve announced drilling of four water wells so far and are permitting sixteen more.
The Final Word
- RECO scooped up licenses for an 8.5-million-acre play the size of Belgium in the Kavango Basin before supermajors had a chance to blink.
- Then they started drilling water wells for the local communities, and have committed to allocating millions to ESG performance standards.
- They’ve got veteran geologists on their team. One says, “nowhere in the world is there a sedimentary basin this deep that does not produce commercial quantities of hydrocarbons.” The other estimates the basin could have generated billions of barrels of oil and gas.
- Wood Mackenzie compares it to the Midland Basin which has a development value of $540-billion.
- Market value is already up 377% year-to-date, with potential to increase if results keep coming in as they have been, and short sellers may have a hard time covering.
- RECO has encountered oil and gas indicators in its first 2 drills so far, and they aren’t even done with the second of three.
- They appear well-funded for this 3-drill campaign, and beyond. After the three-well program and 2D seismic, they estimate they’ll have over $50 million remaining in the treasury.
- More news looks set to come at the end of this month when RECO is expected to complete its second drill, and then again in July when lab analysis is anticipated back …
Other companies looking to capitalize on an increase in oil prices:
ConocoPhillips Company (NYSE:COP) as the largest pure upstream company, has performed relatively well in this depressed market, generating ample free cash flow and returning a good chunk of it to shareholders. Unlike many of its peers who continued to expand aggressively during the shale boom, COP has taken several steps to lower costs and fortify its balance sheet.
Like many of its peers, ConocoPhillips has been gradually offloading non-core assets, including the sale of its North Sea oil and gas assets for $2.7 billion and the planned sale of its Australian assets for $1.4B. Its asset portfolio, however, remains healthy.
Thanks to a global recovery in demand, Conoco has seen an increasingly bullish look on the industry, and it was one of the few companies which did not partake in the mass-layoffs seen in the industry last year. In addition, Conoco has also seen a fairly decent about of insiders buying into its stock, which is a good sign.
Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) is focused on developing its pre-salt operations. And it’s easy to see why. Those upstream projects being approved for development must have a breakeven price of $35 per Brent or less. Brazil’s national oil company has budgeted capital spending for exploration and production activities of $46.5 billion from 2021 to 2025.
Clearly, while the pandemic has hit Brazil’s oil industry causing production to fall because of savage budget cuts and well shut-ins, it appears to have done no material long-term damage. Demand for Petrobras’ low sulfur content fuel is firm and will grow because of the global push to significantly reduce emissions, which will ultimately make Petrobras even more valuable over time.
Petrobras remains one of the most underrated oil majors in the world. It’s got desirable crude oil, a massive footprint in its domestic industry, and a growing amount of interest from investors. It’s also bouncing off of low share prices like the rest of the industry, indicating there could be some upside left.
Chevron (NYSE:CVX) is a leader in the industry, and the second-largest oil company on the New York Stock Exchange. Chevron is also betting big on Africa, particularly Nigeria and Angola. The supermajor ranks among the top oil producers in the two African nations. Other areas on the continent where the company holds interests include Benin, Ghana, the Republic of Congo and Togo. Chevron also holds a 36.7 percent interest in the West African Gas Pipeline Company Limited, which supplies Nigerian natural gas to customers in the region. With bets on both oil and natural gas, the company is looking to take advantage of both fossil fuels. Though prices are still depressed at the moment, as fuel demand returns to normal, Chevron could be a big winner as prices climb back up to pre-pandemic levels.
While Chevron still has not fully recovered from the massive hit it took back in March 2020, where it dropped to a 5-year low of just $59, the oil giant has made some progress thanks to recovering oil prices. Sitting at $104 at the time of writing, Chevron is slowly recuperating some of its losses and is positioned well to benefit in the mid to long term
Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) is the third largest NYSE-listed company, coming in just under Chevron. And similar to Chevron, Shell has also made some big bets in Africa. In fact, it is one of the leaders in the region. The Dutch oil giant began drilling in the region over 70 years ago and now has energy assets in over 20 countries across the continent. Though it has sold off a number of its prized plays in the region in recent years, it continues to maintain a strong presence, especially in South Africa.
Africa, in particular South Africa is key for Shell because the government has been significantly more stable than some of the other big bets on the continent. Moreover, the country has been very open to Shell in its projects. The company’s operations in South Africa include retail and commercial fuel, lubricant, chemical, and manufacturing. It’s also heavily invested in upstream exploration. It even holds the exploration rights to the Orange Basin Deep Water area, off the country’s west coast, and has applications for shale gas exploration rights in the Karoo, in central South Africa.
Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI), a major North American pipeline operator , has been particularly upbeat in recent months. In fact, in early December, it issued optimistic updates, planning higher dividends and expecting more profits in 2021, after the challenges the oil industry has faced last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the wider market crash. Kinder Morgan also expects to raise its dividend for 2021 by 3 percent compared to this year.
Kinder Morgan Inc’s chief executive officer Steve Kean noted, “With budgeted excess coverage of that dividend, we expect also to be able to engage in share repurchases on an opportunistic basis.”
Kinder Morgan is a must-watch in the industry. With dividends on the rise, oil prices increasing, and bullish sentiment returning to the oil industry, there could be some significant upside left for this pipeline operator, especially as oil begins flowing at pre-pandemic levels.
Canadian Natural Resources (NYSE:CNQ; TSX:CNQ) has been able to do what many of its Canadian counterparts haven’t been able to, keep its dividend intact after swinging to a loss for the first half of the COVID pandemic, while Canada’s producers are scaling back production by around 1 million bpd amid low oil prices and demand. Though Canadian Natural Resources kept its dividend, it withdrew its production guidance for 2020, however. It also said it would curtail some production at high-cost conventional projects in North America and oil sands operations and carry out planned turnaround activities at oil sands projects in the second half of 2020.
Though there is a lot of negative press surrounding Canada’s oil sands, the industry is starting to clean up its act a bit. And Canadian Natural Resources is leading the charge. And if analysts are right about Canada’s comeback, Canadian Natural Resources could be in for a big year.
Though the Canadian energy giant has seen its stock price slump this year, it could provide a potential opportunity for investors as oil prices rebound. It is already up over 170% from its March 2020 lows, but it is just getting started. If oil prices continue to climb, it could be huge news for investors that held on.
Enbridge (NYSE:ENB, TSX:ENB) is a giant in Canada’s oil industry, and it is in a great position as oil and gas stages its 2021 comeback. As one of the more potentially undervalued companies in the sector, it could be set to win big this year. But that’s only if it can overcome some of the challenges in its path. Most specifically, its Line 3 project has faced scrutiny from environmentalists.
The massive multi-billion project plans to replace Enbridge’s existing 282 miles of 34-inch pipeline with 337 miles of 36-inch pipe. The new Line 3 would have the capacity to move 370,000 barrels of oil per day, alleviating the takeaway capacity constraints that Canadian oil producers have been struggling with for years now. Line 3 is one of two pipeline projects in the works that are—in their unfinished state—keeping Canada’s oil industry from reaching its potential.
Though this challenge seem prove difficult for Enbridge to overcome, the overall health of the Canadian oil industry is improving, and with it, the outlook for Canadian producers such as Enbridge. Enbridge started the year off with a bang, and if oil prices continue the upward trajectory they’ve seen over the past few months, the Canadian giant could see some upside still.
TC Energy Corporation (NYSE:TRP, TSX:TRP) is a Calgary-based energy giant. The company owns and operates energy infrastructure throughout North America. TC Energy is one of the continent’s largest providers of gas storage and owns and has interests in approximately 11,800 megawatts of power generation. It’s also one of the continent’s most important pipeline operators. With TC Energy’s massive influence throughout North America, it is no wonder that the company is among one of Canada’s strongest and well-known companies.
Like a number of its peers, one of TC Energy’s biggest challenges in recent years was grappling with the particularly difficult approval process for its Keystone Pipeline. But that’s all history now, and with the bounce back in oil and gas demand, TC Energy could stand to benefit. While TC Energy’s stock price has yet to recover from pre-pandemic levels, it is one of the few industry giants which has managed to keep high dividends rolling in. With quarterly payouts exceeding 6%, TC has remained appealing for investors in the industry.
Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) is another giant in Canada’s industry. It has set itself apart from some of its peers through a number of high-tech solutions for finding, pumping, storing, and delivering its resources. Not only is it big in the oil sector, but it is also a leader in renewable energy. Recently, the company invested $300 million in a wind farm located in Alberta, showing that it is committed to reducing its carbon footprint.
Now that oil prices are finally recovering, giants like Suncor looking to capitalize. While many of the oil majors have given up on oil sands production – those who focus on technological advancements in the area have a great long-term outlook. And that upside is further amplified by the fact that it is currently looking particularly under-valued compared to its peers, especially as lithium, which is present in Canada’s oil sands, becomes an even more desirable commodity.
CNOOC Limited (TSX:CNU) is one of the world’s most interesting oil and gas companies. It is China’s most significant producer of offshore crude oil and natural gas, and may well be one of the most controversial oil stocks for investors on the market. A label that has nothing to do with its operations, however.
The relationship between the United States and China has admittedly been better, and if things were to take a turn for the worst, it could have a major impact on global natural gas, given that CNOOC is China’s largest importer of LNG. But the Biden administration has been working to improve relations and as such, Chinese companies, including CNOOC, are likely to breathe freely once again, and it be great news for investors in Chinese stocks.
By. Alex Leigh
**IMPORTANT! BY READING OUR CONTENT YOU EXPLICITLY AGREE TO THE FOLLOWING. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY**
Forward-Looking Statements. Statements contained in this document that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements that involve various risks and uncertainty affecting the business of Recon. All estimates and statements with respect to Recon’s operations, its plans and projections, size of potential oil reserves, comparisons to other oil producing fields, oil prices, recoverable oil, production targets, production and other operating costs and likelihood of oil recoverability are forward-looking statements under applicable securities laws and necessarily involve risks and uncertainties including, without limitation: risks associated with oil and gas exploration, including drilling and other exploration activities, timing of reports, development, exploitation and production, geological risks, marketing and transportation, availability of adequate funding, volatility of commodity prices, imprecision of reserve and resource estimates, environmental risks, competition from other producers, government regulation, dates of commencement of production and changes in the regulatory and taxation environment. Actual results may vary materially from the information provided in this document, and there is no representation that the actual results realized in the future will be the same in whole or in part as those presented herein. Other factors that could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements are also set forth in filings that Recon and its technical analysts have made. We undertake no obligation, except as otherwise required by law, to update these forward-looking statements except as required by law.
Exploration for hydrocarbons is a highly speculative venture necessarily involving substantial risk. Recon’s future success will depend on its ability to develop its current properties and on its ability to discover resources that are capable of commercial production. However, there is no assurance that Recon’s future exploration and development efforts will result in the discovery or development of commercial accumulations of oil and natural gas. In addition, even if hydrocarbons are discovered, the costs of extracting and delivering the hydrocarbons to market and variations in the market price may render uneconomic any discovered deposit. Geological conditions are variable and unpredictable. Even if production is commenced from a well, the quantity of hydrocarbons produced inevitably will decline over time, and production may be adversely affected or may have to be terminated altogether if Recon encounters unforeseen geological conditions. Adverse climatic conditions at such properties may also hinder Recon’s ability to carry on exploration or production activities continuously throughout any given year.
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