In a challenging year for energy stocks, these juniors are outperforming
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Unlike their counterparts in the mining sector, energy stocks of all stripes and colours have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on demand.
The outlook for fossil fuels is decidedly mixed with the International Energy Agency (IEA) warning that coal demand is unlikely to return to pre-crisis levels and could in fact fall below 20 per cent of the energy mix by 2040, the first time since the Industrial Revolution.
It noted that projected increases in Asian coal demand will not be enough to offset falls elsewhere.
Oil is projected to recover in step with the economy though demand could flatten in the 2030s.
However, a prolonged economic downturn could impact on demand recovery as consumer behaviours such as working from home or avoiding air travel become more engrained.
Merlon Capital Partners analyst Ben Goodwin also notes that 2020 investment in conventional oil supply is likely to be significantly below the already low levels of capital expenditure that it experienced from 2015 to 2019.
On the bright side, he noted that when combined with subdued US volumes, this underinvestment could further limit any supply response to higher prices, with the potential for sharply higher prices as demand recovers – a plus for oil-focused energy stocks.
Natural gas is expected to fare significantly better with demand expected to increase by 30 per cent by 2040, most of it from South and East Asia.
It is unsurprising then that of the 133 energy stocks tracked by Stockhead, just a little less than a third of them have seen their shares rise since the beginning of this year – 82 companies are in the red.
So, just what have some of the junior energy stocks with a focus in Australia being up to?
Bounty Oil & Gas (ASX:BUY) has seen steady growth through this year.
It recently noted its joint venture with Advent Energy would investigate the potential to use the gas exploration program at the Baleen project in the offshore Sydney Basin for carbon capture and storage as a secondary objective.
This was tipped as a potential way of addressing carbon emissions from sources such as oil refineries, coke ovens and power stations in New South Wales.
Strata-X Energy (ASX:SXA) has started site preparations for the Venus-1 coal seam gas within the Surat Basin that will spud next week.
After reaching total depth, the plan is to case and suspend the well, then demobilise the rig. Shortly afterward, a coil tubing rig will be used to run a reservoir enhancement program.
The well will then be set up as the first pilot production well for a controlled fluid drawdown, with testing to continue into early 2021.
Production testing is designed to prove initial gas breakout and increasing gas flows over the controlled drawdown period.
Results from the testing will also used to decide to either expand the pilot or, if commercial flow rates are achieved, start an aggressive appraisal program designed to certify sufficient reserves
Empire Energy Group’s (ASX:EEG) Carpentaria-1 well has intersected liquids-rich gas in the Velkerri Shale on the eastern side of the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin.
Notably, the shale is nearly 1,000m thick in this location while the substantial proportions of heavier end, higher value liquid hydrocarbons is expected to materially enhance the economics of any future production.
The Velkerri Shale at the company’s EP187 permit is also shallower than analogue wells in other parts of the Beetaloo Basin with equivalent thickness and gas shows, resulting in reduced drilling costs.
Appraisal of the liquids-rich gas Velkerri Shale targets is planned for early in the 2021 dry season including fracture stimulation and flow testing.
In the Perth Basin, Strike Energy (ASX:STX) is gearing up to drill the Walyering-5 appraisal well with Talon Petroleum (ASX:TPD) and is currently drilling the West Erregulla-3 appraisal well with Warrego Energy (ASX:WGO).
The company has just side-tracked West Erregulla-3, which is testing the continuation of the commercial gas accumulation made by the West Erregulla-2 well in the northern fault block.
It will be followed by West Erregulla-4 and the contingent West Erregulla-5 wells that will appraise the reservoir distribution in the central fault block.
All three wells will be flow tested if successful and completed as future producers.
Meanwhile, Walyering-5 will follow on the back of the West Erregulla campaign and will test a best estimate prospective resource net to Talon of up to 38.7 billion cubic feet of gas and 0.98 million barrels of condensate.
Talon has already determined that Walyering-5 has good quality gas, containing less than 1 per cent carbon dioxide, which requires very minimal processing
Australian energy stocks with operations around the globe have also been keeping busy.
Jupiter Energy (ASX:JPR) has seen some massive spikes in its share price this year, the latest of which could have been sparked by reports that Kazakhstan government would allow oil producers to sell directly to the global market at prevailing prices.
While its shares have come down from those highs, they are still up 400 per cent from the beginning of this year, making it one of the best performing energy stocks on the ASX.
The company also confirmed in September that the approval process for transitioning the Akkar East oilfield from its exploration licence to commercial production has been finalised.
It added that wells J-51, J-52 and 19 have restarted production under the “Preparatory Period’ regime set out under the Kazakh Sub Surface Code.
The company added that negotiations with its preferred drilling contractor were well advanced with contract award imminent and that an international tender for long lead items had also been completed.
Scheduled to spud in the first quarter of next year, Alameda-1 is the highest ranked prospect in Block 9 and lies in a similar structural position to the largest oil field in Cuba, Varadero, approximately 35km away.
The well will test three targets – Amistad/U1, N and Alameda – that have been independently assessed to have a total Prospective Resource of 141 million barrels of oil and has been ascribed a 32% chance of success.
Zimbabwe-focused Invictus Energy (ASX:IVZ) has just started field operations at its Cabora Bassa gas project.
The reconnaissance program and baseline survey consist of the traversing of the proposed infill seismic lines for a planned acquisition campaign in the 2021 dry season.
This will capture details such as topography, existing access roads, drainage, vegetation cover, soil types, rock exposures, sampling of any natural oil and gas seeps, areas of development (constructions and cultivation), plus any sites of cultural, religious or historic importance.
Rounding off out energy stocks summary is Otto Energy (ASX:OEL), which has started production from the Green Canyon 21 oil and gas field in the Gulf of Mexico.
Production will be gradually increased during the first two weeks as part of a planned ramp-up strategy.
At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While Invictus Energy is a Stockhead advertiser, it did not sponsor this article.