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Excitement Builds As First Shale Gas Well Gets Drilled in Europe

Mon, Aug 9, 6:46 PM ET, by Keith Schaefer, Oil and Gas Investments Newsletter

Shale gas and shale oil plays in Europe are hitting new milestones - though it's not showing up in anybody's stock price just yet. The first shale gas well has now been drilled in Poland, and the first shale oil well in the Paris Basin is due this fall.

Many of the major oil companies that missed out on the US shale gas revolution have acquired large land positions here, and they, along with investors in several junior exploration companies, are watching closely for results.

US producer ConocoPhillips (COP-NYSE) has evidently completed its first vertical well into its Polish shale gas play, with a second well scheduled to begin drilling very shortly. The Polish state-owned oil firm, PGNiG, also spud a shale well on July 6th. Talisman (TLM-TSX; TLM-NYSE) is expected to begin drilling early next year. Chevron (CVX-NYSE) has also won large land blocks there.

Europe is the first stop on the train of shale gas technology being exported around the globe - which should result in many new discoveries that will enrich oil and gas investors for years.

There is no shale gas production in Europe right now - ConocoPhillips' well is the first. Up until now, the play has been a huge land grab - at a fraction of the cost in North America - and right now Poland is receiving the most attention. By some estimates Poland has approximately 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.

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So with big reserve potential, and cheap land costs - under $1 per acre sometimes vs. $5000 per acre in North America - for both oil and gas - and gas prices are at least 50% higher in Europe than North America and the economics for a big discovery could be very compelling.

As drilling results begin to come out of Poland in the coming months, the market will get a much better idea of how fast this play will shape up. So far details have been hard to come by, but ConocoPhillips is drilling its second well in Poland. (Don't take that to mean the first one hit; it doesn't - they'll likely drill 20-odd holes to start to build a database.)

Should someone announce a highly productive well, land prices will shoot up, and stock prices along with it.

And Europe is very keen to wean itself off politically charged Gazprom, the Russian gas company that supplies most of Europe's gas. Gazprom has already cut off gas supplies to one customer - Ukraine, twice - in the middle of winter. Europe's main source of domestic gas, Norway, saw its gas reserves peak in 2001 and production peak in 2004.

Junior companies listed in Canada – such as Realm Energy International (RLM-TSXv), BNK Petroleum (BKX-TSX), and others on the junior London (UK) Stock Exchange board, AIM - such as Igas and Lane Energy, have also acquired large acreage positions.

The primary frontier for shale oil in Europe is France's Paris basin - which has the potential to be the Bakken play of Europe - a new onshore shale oil discovery that could hold TENS of billions of barrels of oil.

Leading the charge to access these resources include American companies Toreador Resources (TRGL-NASD), Hess Corporation (HES-NYSE), and privately held EurEnergy Resources, and Canada's Vermilion Energy (VET.UN-TSX). Hess Corporation (HES-NYSE) just signed a deal to spend up to $260 million to earn into Toreador's Paris Basin lands.

Hess and Toreador will be drilling their first well this fall.

There was HUGE wealth creation for North American investors in shale gas in the last five years, as the majors missed almost the entire play - it was left to juniors and intermediates that were small enough that their stocks could benefit from a productive land position of a few thousand acres.

Just think, as late as 2007 - 3 short years ago - the Marcellus and the Haynesville shales did not even appear on many maps outlining oil and gas basins in North America. They are now the two fastest growing gas producers in the US. So land prices, production - and stock prices - can ramp up quickly.

Europe does have a few disadvantages. There is a different land tenure system in each country of Europe for oil & gas leases, plus there is lack of trained service people to do the work - frac'ers in particular are in very short supply. And the majors have big land positions here, and they are not as free flowing with news as the juniors.

But enough money is being spent that the industry will not walk away until the secret to getting oil and gas out of European shale is discovered. But that could take a lot of drilling and fracking - and time.

I've heard Halliburton has just commissioned two new frac spreads (the machines that do the fracking, and open up a yard in Warsaw, Poland. This only makes sense with the major producers spending tens of millions of dollars in drilling.

I cover the junior and intermediate producers, and right now only Realm Energy, BNK Petroleum and Toreador"¦and to a certain degree Vermilion"¦have enough exposure to European shale to have a dramatic impact on their stock (DISCLOSURE - I own NO stock in any of these companies). Some are developing their own lands and some, like Toreador, have already found a larger partner with deep pockets in Hess.

Realm CFO Kevin Rathbun says they will also follow that route: “We were one of the first companies into this play. We intend to joint venture our Polish properties, which is more than 450,000 acres net to us, and that will result in an aggressive 2011 exploration program.”

For a map of some of the promising, but very early stage shale plays in Europe, click here

http://blogs.ft.com/energy-source/files/2010/03/ihs_epmag_euroshalegasplays.gif


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This Article's Word Cloud:   America   Energy   Europe   Hess   NYSE   North   Paris   Poland   Polish   Realm   There   Toreador   about   also   begin   companies   could   drilling   early   enough   first   have   here   into   investors   junior   just   land   large   play   positions   potential   prices   producers   production   quot   right   shale   stock   than   that   their   they   this   very   well   which   will   with   years

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2 Comments

 Natural Gas for Europe blog update developments on shale gas in Europe and its players including BNK Petroleum, Realm Energy , Lane Energy, San Leon Energy and others. www.naturalgasforeurope.com

-- cladd
Tue, Aug 10, 0:55 AM ET

 There is reference to "a map", however, only a diagram of European shale plays is shown. Could the author provide us with a concession (permit) map of the French Paris Basin ?

-- Ajax2000
Mon, Oct 11, 9:20 AM ET

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