April 1, 2013: Taft, California, hopes to cash in on Monterey. Update at LA Times. Doesn't sound promising. I don't think oil companies have cracked the code on fracking in the Monterey, and the environmentalists are circling. The Monterey is California's Keystone XL.
February 21, 2013: short video on Monterey Shale; sounds like it will be more difficult to figure out geologically (think tectonic plates, fault lines, mountains, earthquakes); CVX is on record as saying they are not impressed. Remember earlier post of CVX moving some 800 of their California employees to Houston. The transcript of the video is here.
February 3, 2013: New York Times article on the Monterey Shale in California.
December 24, 2012: recent BLM auction in Monterey County turns out to be a dud: $10/acre.
December 23, 2012: BLM approves leasing for the Monterey shale; says fracking is safe;
August 29, 2012: with Californians so anti-oil, not much chance that the Monterey Shale will be huge competitor to the Bakken with regard to bragging rights. It's not as easy as it sounds to drill the Monterey Shale.
August 5, 2012: after posting the story below, and after posting the first couple of comments, I read the SeekingAlpha.com transcript of EOG's 2Q12 earnings conference call. What EOG had to say about Eagle Ford, the Bakken, and the Monterey, confirms what I wrote below. Very, very interesting.
Regular readers should find this very, very interesting.
First, some data points from the blog over the past few weeks.
Occidental, in my mind, is as California-centric, as Whiting is Bakken-centric. (I could be wrong, but in general, that's my world view.)
Occidental entered the Bakken; initials wells were not particularly noteworthy, and OXY mentioned (in an earnings conference call) they would be reducing their effort in North Dakota and moving to California where they perceived better opportunities.
About this time, there was a flurry of articles about the Monterey Shale in California, and the dots started to connect.
But, then two interesting observations. First, after that initial flurry of stories, I didn't read much more about OXY and Monterey Shale. Perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough (true), but I scan the headlines of four or five oil and gas trade journals five days a week, and I don't recall much being written about Monterey Shale.
The second observation; in the 2Q12 earnings conference call, OXY mentioned that its worldwide production had increased, but that increase was mostly attributable to the Bakken. And unlike earlier conference calls when the Bakken was hardly mentioned, it seems the Bakken was mentioned fairly often this time around. Those two observations suggested to me that maybe, just maybe, perhaps the Bakken was looking at least a little bit better to OXY.
So, that's where matters stood in the left side of my brain until a few minutes ago. I was checking up on Bakkenzone.com as a Bakken news site, and came across the linked story (above). From that site:
The field, a formation of rock known as the Monterey Shale, was thought to have 15 billion barrels of “technically recoverable” reserves, according to government estimates. That’s triple the amount of oil found in huge and newly prolific fields in North Dakota and Texas. The formation lies under the San Joaquin Valley in central California. Most of the locations probed so far have been northwest of Bakersfield.Interesting, huh?
But drillers haven’t been able to get the Monterey Shale to produce oil at high rates. Brackett suggests that there are a few characteristics of the geology that could make the field more difficult to develop. There are lots of natural faults in the rock, which means drillers can’t easily control the flow of oil through faults they create. Also, the rock is not under enormous pressure, so there is less force pushing the oil to the surface. And the oil may be relatively thick and sticky, which slows its flow.
Now, add a few more data points.
"Everyone" agrees that the Bakken should have 3 to 4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. This is a most conservative estimate and was "developed" back in 2008 (?). Certainly technology and geopolitical events have changed since 2008. Recent estimates, by some credible folks, suggest there may be as much as 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken/Three Forks. Note how those numbers (4 billion and 24 billion) compare to the estimate for Monterey Shale.
Also, note at the linked story, the drillers interested in the Monterey Shale: Occidental Petroleum Corp.(mkt cap: $75B), Plains Exploration & Production Co. ($5B), Venoco Inc. ($0.5B) and Berry Petroleum Co ($2B). That list speaks volumes, especially when compared to the list of drillers interested in the Bakken: Statoil (Norway State Oil), XOM, COP, Marathon, Whiting, Continental Resources, Burlington Resources.
I don't think the state of California will stand in the way of developing the Monterey Shale due to the state's budget crisis, but a) faux environmentalists will always be a challenge; b) I've never thought of California as pro-business as North Dakota; c) even under best of circumstances, lawyers per capita in California vs North Dakota is a concern; and, d) if anything goes wrong, environmentally while drilling the Monterey, the press will be ready to pounce.
The tone of OXY's 2Q12 conference call seems to reflect those data points, especially in light of the article linked above, Bloomberg, July 31, 2012.