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11/20/09

Must read on oil

If you only read one article about the oil industry this year, the report linked right here has to be it. Utterly, totally, completely and absolutely unmissable. Not only is it intelligent and über-insightful, but it's a highly entertaining read, too.

Alan von Altendorf is a smart guy when it comes to the oil industry. He runs an independent oil consultancy out of Houston called CWSX and knows his patch. Several moons ago, I got lucky and hooked up with AvA while covering the subject of Petrobras (PBR). At the time of the mega pre-salt hype PBR was plainly getting way expensive and I said so. When the idiot sheep screamed their denials, AvA stepped up with solid science and arguments that agreed with the overbought call. He was proved very very right.

Anyway, to the point. He's written a new, free access paper that blows the lid off the new SEC rules and eviscerates the oil industry, version 2009. I cannot praise this paper highly enough and have already learned a whole bucketload about the scams going on in the oil biz during my first couple of scans at the piece. I'll be sitting back and absorbing every word later. You should too.

Here's the intro section to AvA's note. Here's the link again, so go get your own copy.


This is a long article on the subject of oil & gas reserves and due diligence.

My purpose is to alert you to revision of SEC Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X effective January 1, 2010. Concealed in a handful of benign new regs is a financial truck bomb that's going to blow away "proved reserves" as a meaningful metric of oil company assets.

Old definition: Proved Reserves are those quantities which can be estimated with reasonable certainty to be commercially recoverable from known reservoirs under defined economic conditions. Proved quantities arelimited by the lowest known hydrocarbon as seen in a well penetration unless otherwise indicated by definitive geoscience, engineering, or performance data. Seismic data alone is not sufficient to define fluid contacts. Undeveloped locations may be classified as Proved in undrilled areas of a reservoir that can be judged with reasonable certainty to be commercially productive.

New definition: Industry is no longer constrained by the criterion of certainty. An operator can book incremental proved reserves from planned enhanced recovery projects (gas injection, acid fracturing) based on a pilot project. Coal seam gas, bitumen, oil shale and other unconventional resources can be booked as Proved Reserves. Estimated reservoir properties in the aggregate is a departure from the old rules. The new SEC definition does not require that an analogous reservoir has to be in the immediate area or in pressure communication. Seismic analysis and reservoir models are sufficient to book Proved Reserves.

Hold on to your shorts, it gets worse.

Under the new SEC rules you don't have to drill a well and actually produce oil. An operator can establish levels of lowest known hydrocarbons and highest known oil through "reliable technology" other than well penetrations. It doesn't have to be 90% reliable or widely accepted by industry peers... [more]

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