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Arctic Oil Still Seen Decades Off as Producers Balk at Costs – Bloomberg

Arctic Oil Still Seen Decades Off as Producers Balk at Costs – Bloomberg.

By Mikael Holter and Niklas Magnusson  Feb 24, 2014 4:41 AM ET

Lundin Petroleum AB (LUPE), the Swedish explorer focused on Norway, said there won’t be any new oil output in the ice-filled waters of the Arctic for at least 15 years because of technical and logistical challenges.

“I don’t think we’ll see any oil production in the Arctic any time soon — probably not this decade and not the next,” Chairman Ian Lundin said in a Feb. 20 interview in Stockholm. “The commercial challenges are too big.”

The Arctic holds 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil, according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates. Still, exploration of the Arctic ocean floor, where 84 percent of these resources are thought to be trapped, has suffered setbacks in recent years.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc. (RDSA)Europe’s biggest oil company, in January again halted drilling plans off Alaska after a court ruled the area had been illegally opened to exploration. That followed a previous postponement after a series of technical mishaps in 2012, including the stranding of a rig.

Off the coast of Greenland, drilling has yet to resume after Cairn Energy Plc (CNE) spent $1 billion on exploration without making commercial finds in iceberg-ridden waters, while Russia’s Shtokman gas project, 600 kilometers (370 miles) from shore in the Barents Sea, has been stalled for years.

Lower Priority

As companies including Shell and Norway’s state-controlled Statoil ASA (STL) cut planned investments amid rising costs across the industry, expensive Arctic projects could get a lower priority.

“It may take a while to develop the right technology,” Lundin’s chairman said. “Investments are very, very high so it still has to be commercially justified.”

Another factor undermining the appeal of expensive exploration projects is the outlook for crude prices. Brent oil for delivery in 2016 is trading at about $97.45 a barrel, down 11 percent from the current spot price of $110.07 for the global benchmark, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Ice Futures Europe Exchange.

An exception to Arctic challenges is the southern part of Norway’s Barents Sea, Lundin said. While inside the Arctic circle, it benefits from a less-harsh climate and shallower and ice-free waters, and may hold 8 billion barrels of oil equivalent in undiscovered resources, more than 40 percent of the country’s total.

Dwindling Reserves

To compensate for dwindling reserves in aging North Sea fields, Norway is pushing into the Barents, which holds 54 of the 61 blocks the government has proposed issuing in its next licensing round. More than half will be in a newly opened area previously disputed with Russia.

“In the Barents Sea we’ll probably see production much sooner because there’s no technological gap,” he said. “It’s now just a matter of having the reserve base that you’re required to have to justify the investment.”

Lundin fell as much as 0.8 percent and traded 0.2 percent lower at 127.3 kronor as of 10:40 a.m. in Stockholm. That curbs the stock’s gain to 1.5 percent so far this year and gives Lundin a market value of 40.5 billion kronor ($6.2 billion.)

Some oil production has already started in Arctic waters. BP Plc (BP/)’s Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska has been producing since the 1970s, while OAO Gazprom in December became the first Russian company to extract oil from the Arctic seabed at the Prirazlomnoye field in the Pechora Sea.

Contrasting Outlooks

Eni SpA (ENI) will become the first company to produce oil in Norway’s Barents Sea when its Goliat field starts in the third quarter this year, even though the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has said it expects delays. Statoil’s Snohvit gas field, which began output in 2007, is the only producing field in the Norwegian Barents Sea to date.

Lundin discovered as much as 145 million barrels of oil at the Gohta prospect in the Barents Sea last year. That has helped revive optimism among explorers after Statoil postponed an investment decision on its nearby Johan Castberg project because of higher costs, taxes and uncertainty about resource estimates of as much as 600 million barrels of oil.

Gohta was Norway’s first oil discovery in Permian layers with sufficient flow, and opened up a new exploration model for the area with as many as 10 new drilling targets, the Swedish explorer has said. Lundin is planning an appraisal well at Gohta in the second quarter and will drill the nearby Alta prospect in the third.

Lundin’s optimism contrasts with Statoil, which has found oil at just one of four exploration wells designed to boost crude resources for its Castberg project and make it more profitable. Still, current resources are sufficient to be developed and Gohta could even be coupled with Castberg, Lundin has said.

“There are other discoveries in the same area” as Gohta, the chairman said. “After we go through the appraisal phase we’ll hopefully be in a position where we can just press the button for development.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Niklas Magnusson in Stockholm atnmagnusson1@bloomberg.net; Mikael Holter in Oslo at mholter2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonas Bergman at jbergman@bloomberg.net

RIGZONE – Oil Firms Seen Cutting Exploration Spending

RIGZONE – Oil Firms Seen Cutting Exploration Spending.

by  Reuters
|Gwladys Fouche & Balazs Koranyi
|Monday, February 17, 2014
Article title
Global oil firms are about to cut exploration spending, pulling back from frontier areas and jeopardizing their future reserves, industry insiders say.

Reuters

OSLO, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Global oil firms, hit by one of the worst years for discovery in two decades, are about to cut exploration spending, pulling back from frontier areas and jeopardising their future reserves, industry insiders say.

Notable exploration failures in high-profile places such as Africa’s west coast, from Angola all the way up to Sierra Leone, have pushed down valuations for exploration-focused firms and are now forcing oil majors to change tack.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to find new oil and gas, and in particular new oil,” says Tim Dodson, the exploration chief of Statoil, the world’s top conventional explorer last year.

“The discoveries tend to be somewhat smaller, more complex, more remote, so it is very difficult to see a reversal of that trend,” Dodson told Reuters. “The industry at large will probably struggle going forward with reserve replacement.”

Although final numbers are not yet available, Dodson said 2013 may have been the industry’s worst year for oil exploration since 1995.

As a result, exploration will probably be cut, especially in the newest areas, said Lysle Brinker, the director of energy equity research at consultancy firm IHS.

“They’ll be scaling back on some exploration, like the Arctic or the deepest waters with limited infrastructure … So places like the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil will continue to see a lot of activity, but frontier regions will see some scaling back,” he said.

Oil majors, which have a large resource base to maintain, are suffering the most, as the world is running out of very large conventional oil fields, and access to acreage, particularly in the Middle East, is limited.

That is leaving them with an increasing number of gas projects.

“When you look at the mix of oil and gas of the majors, it is definitely moving towards gas – simply because they can’t access conventional oil, which ultimately I believe will have an impact on oil prices,” said Ashley Heppenstall, the CEO of Sweden’s Lundin Petroleum, which co-discovered Johan Sverdrup, the biggest North Sea oil field in decades.

Prices Down Then Up

Before oil prices rise from a lack of exploration, they are first expected to fall, squeezing margins and forcing further investment cutbacks.

The International Energy Agency sees oil prices down at $102 per barrel next year from the current $108 as several producers ramp up output.

“Oil prices need to remain at elevated levels because there is a risk that a fall in oil prices or a cutback in investments by companies will mean that production growth slows,” said Virendra Chauhan, an oil analyst at consultancy Energy Aspects.

Although world oil reserves increased by 1 percent in 2012, they equalled just 52.9 years of global consumption, down from 54.2 in 2011, energy firm BP has said previously. BP sees consumption up by 19 million barrels a day by 2035, which would represent a 21 percent increase on th U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) estimate for 2011.

Energy firms have already been shifting capital from conventional to shale production, and this trend could continue as the exploration risk is smaller, the lag from investment to cash-flow is shorter, and project sizes are more manageable.

This is weighing negatively on the shares of exploration-focused companies.

“Explorer stocks are trading at discovery value or a discount to it, so from an equity market perspective, there’s no interest in owning exploration stories. People are losing faith in exploration,” said Anish Kapadia, a research analyst at consultancy Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. International.

Shares in Europe’s explorers fell 20 percent over the past year, underperforming a 2-percent rise by the European oil index .

Tullow is down 39 percent in a year, while peers Cairn and Cobalt are down 33 percent, and OGX is down 92 percent.

The spending cutback also cut mergers and acquisitions activity by half last year, IHS data showed, and plans to boost shareholder returns could shift focus to cooperation rather than fully fledged takeovers.

“You will probably see more activity at the asset level more than at the corporate level … More joint ventures, swapping assets, buying and selling of assets,’ said Jeremy Bentham, Shell’s vice-president for business environment.

Insiders believe the cuts may not be reversed until capital tied up in projects like Chevron’s $54 billion Gorgon LNG or Conoco’s $25 billion Australia Pacific LNG start producing cash flow and return.

“There will be less investor pressure, then companies can get activity back up, so this may be a pause of a couple of years where companies scale back,” Brinker said.

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