After very promising results on their first well in Namibia’s giant Kavango basin, global attention has turned to this small Canadian explorer as it drills its second well in a basin estimated by a world-renowned geochemist to potentially hold up to 120 billion barrels.
In an interview with Oilprice.com’s James Stafford, Steinke, the founder and President of Reconnaissance Energy Africa (“Recon Africa”) (TSX.V: RECO, OTCMKTS:RECAF) discusses:
Why RECO’s first drill has garnered international attention
After the 3 well drilling program and 450 km 2d seismic program RECO expects to have cash of over $50 million
What’s in store for RECO’s second drill
Why excitement is building over the recent DeWolf research report
How much oil is potentially on the line
What’s next for the world’s most exciting junior explorer
How investors have reacted to this exciting oil play
Could Namibia become the next potential global oil hotspot
How RECO plans to give back to the community and environment
James Stafford: Can you give me an update on how things are with RECO in Namibia?
Craig Steinke: Well James, thanks, as you know, Recon Africa has been invited by the Namibian government to help them generate indigenous sources of energy and we have committed to drilling 3 wells in the Kavango basin to establish whether there is an active petroleum system or not. So the company is now honoring that commitment, it has drilled its first successful well and is now drilling a second well.
James Stafford: Can you tell me about the licenses, do you need a second license to drill more wells?
Craig Steinke: Well we are in the exploratory stage of the petroleum license, and we have committed to drilling an initial three wells. While drilling in the exploration phase of the license, should ReconAfrica and the Namibian government deem the results commercial, that’s when we are entitled to move into a 25-year production sharing contract.
James Stafford: You recently did a raise. What was your thinking behind this and how much cash will you be sitting on after it closes and after the warrants?
Craig Steinke: We raised money at 70 cents per unit in August 2020 and that set up the drilling program. After drilling the first well we were very pleasantly surprised that we had proved there was an active conventional petroleum system of light oil and high BTU gas in the first well.
It was more than we expected, and as a result, the government and RECO disseminated a joint release on this success. Naturally, the share price had a significant move upward and we were offered $25 million in a bought deal arrangement at $9.50 per unit. We thought it was wise to take it. The orders were so overwhelming that Haywood Securities, the investment bank that offered us the bought deal, asked us to upsize it to $36 million–so we did.
We thought it was a smart move because it puts RECO in a much stronger position. Once we drill the three wells and shoot the 2D seismic program, which comprises 450 km, if results are what we anticipate then we plan to enter into JV negotiations. Having additional cash in the treasury when you are conducting JV negotiations puts the company in a much stronger position because you can go and develop the play if you aren’t happy with what’s being offered.
James Stafford: After the three-well program and 2D seismic, how much cash should you have left over?
Craig Steinke: We should have well over $50 million remaining in the treasury.
James Stafford: And when do you think all of the results will be back?
Craig Steinke: We are drilling the second well currently and should commence the seismic by the middle of June. By September, we should have finished the 3rd well and the seismic.
James Stafford: And what happens then? You’ll have drilled 3 wells, completed 450km of 2D seismic and will have $50 million cash sitting in the bank.
Craig Steinke: We are looking for conventional traps. This basin has seen a lot of faulting, which should give rise to conventional reservoirs. So, after the 450 km seismic, we expect to be conducting more 2D seismic. We have established a basin. We just need to find the most opportune areas to drill for the next round of drilling and that will be determined by the 2D seismic. In conjunction with additional seismic, we expect to be conducting JV negotiations.
James Stafford: What about another rig?
Craig Steinke: We get asked that a lot and it is a possibility, but the next step is to do the 2D seismic to accurately identify drilling locations. Any decisions on additional rigs will happen then. We expect we will need more. Will we buy 1 or 2, perhaps. But there is a good chance we won’t, and will leave it up to JV partners.
James Stafford: I recently read the DeWolf report that just came out with great interest. In his report he states the following: Every 1 billion barrels recoverable at a PV 10% of $C10 per barrel, which is very conservative, adds $10 CDN billion to RECO’s Enterprise Value or 9 X the current market capitalization or by $72 CDN per share. Now with Dan Jarvies estimate that the basin could have generated north of 120 billion barrels, these numbers are astonishing. What are your thoughts on what DeWolf has just put out?
Craig Steinke: Yes I just read the report. There’s no question the PV 10 of 1 Billion bbls recoverable has a lot of value. Also, DeWolf does a great job in providing historical data on just how indicative success with the first well is on the success rate of wells to follow. Similarly, ReconAfrica believes the success on its first well 6-2, the discovery well, reflects very positively on the success rate of our next two wells. We have much to look forward to.
James Stafford: Can you tell us about the ROE purchase? Why did it happen so quickly and what do you think you’ve got there?
Craig Steinke: ROE holds an option to acquire a 50% working interest in the Botswana lands that comprises 2.2 million acres–and those are 100% lands, long-term licenses, very good lands. It was the results of the first well that RECO drilled where management just felt that this was indicative of what the basin held.
We hit on the first well. So that’s either very lucky, or the success of the first well is indicative of what the rest of the basin holds. Management is confident it is the later. As a result, RECO definitely wanted the Botswana lands and it was the right time to move. No question, it was the smartest thing to do.
James Stafford: Tell us about this first well. What do you think you’ve got and when can we expect more results on it?
Craig Steinke: With the first well, as conveyed in the news release, we drilled into some sedimentary rocks and then deeper down we drilled into carbonates. Both looked very opportune because we saw high BTU gas and light oil in the sedimentary rock and then the same in the carbonates. And it comprised 660 feet or 200 meters of light oil and high BTU gas.
The carbonates specifically: More than half of the world’s oil comes from carbonate rock. This is very prolific reservoir and source rock. The Middle East is pretty much all carbonates. We have had some very positive comments after looking at the logs Schlumberger ran for us, and albeit early stage, we think they could be prolific reservoirs.
James Stafford: So 660 feet of showing – what does that mean? Do you need to frac the rock to get it out?
Craig Steinke: These three wells are not designed to be producers. Can we produce them? That’s a possibility. But with regards to completing the carbonates, they look like carbonate rocks we have seen in northern Africa where basically conventional completion methods will make them productive. No fracking.
James Stafford: What do you hope to achieve in well 2? Well 1 was incredible. Now that you have tasted success, what are you expecting?
Craig Steinke: We have high quality aeromagnetic data which allowed us to identify some structures and holes in the basin. The first well was designed to drill into the side of a structure to prove there was an active conventional petroleum system, and we did just that. We proved there is light oil and high BTU gas by way of a structure, a faulted circumstance. But the second well is designed to drill into a lesser disturbed, lesser faulted area where we should be able to drill through the entire petroleum system. So if you couple the two wells together, the importance is that it should give us a good representation of the entire basin and what it has to offer.
James Stafford: If the project works out, what would this mean to the people of Namibia?
Craig Steinke: This will be transformational for Namibia. Namibia suffers from severe energy poverty. Their main goal in Vision 2030 is to industrialize their country and pull their people out of poverty. You have to remember they don’t have a significant amount of indigenous energy. For example, Namibia imports 60% of their electricity from South Africa, so how can they industrialize their country? If you have to import energy to establish industries, but at higher costs, then how do you compete? You can’t?
James Stafford: And I suppose a successful project of the magnitude we are looking at could increase the standard of living as a whole?
Craig Steinke: The entire country could be transformed. Particularly the 250,000 people of the Kavango region. Over 40% of the local people live in generational poverty. This will provide the local citizens with good paying jobs, upwardly mobile jobs, that will help pull them out of poverty, provide access to fresh water and basic medical services.
One of the glaring problems in the region is the local population don’t have the wherewithal to drill water wells but there is a fresh water aquifer right under their feet. They have to walk up to 10 km per day with 45 lbs of water on their heads. RECO recognized this problem before Christmas. As soon as we landed the rig, in conjunction with the local water authorities, we started drilling water wells for the local community. We now have four community water wells operational and are permitting six new wells. RECO is already employing approximately 300 people in Namibia and over half of that in the Kavango region where they need the jobs the most.
James Stafford: How have you found the ease of doing business in Namibia and how is the government to work with?
Craig Steinke: One of the reasons we are operating in Namibia is because there is a very supportive government. We work with four separate ministries. There is a lot of oversight on RECO and strong environmental laws in their constitution. There is strong support from the local governors who are charged with providing their citizens with jobs, access to fresh water and medical services. And there is significant support from the local people.
James Stafford: There have been a number of articles in environmental journals that expressed concern about drilling for oil in Kavango. How are you ensuring the environment is protected?
Craig Steinke: Part of our commitment to the government is to prove there is a conventional petroleum system in the basin. But beyond that, we are committed to sharing oil and gas technology and good oilfield practices that have developed over decades in Western Canada. There really is very little risk to the environment. The seismic equipment we are using, owned and operated by Polaris Geophysical in Canada, is the lightest impact seismic equipment in the world. It is a Mercedes Benz tractor that is 9 feet wide and drives soundwaves into the ground which are received by wireless geophones the size of your cellphones. This tractor just purrs along the surface at a low RPM, or an idle, everything is wireless–the lightest impact worldwide. It is their 10th or 11th program they have conducted in Africa, all of which have been very successful.
James Stafford: How about the drilling itself? You had to use drilling fluids and you had to clear the site. Do you think there is any long-term impact from the drilling of well one?
Craig Steinke: We are only on that location for a few months, then we reclaim the land and it is back to normal. We are employing the most advanced drilling fluid in the industry–a polymer water-based drilling fluid. It is a plant oil that we use in conjunction with water. It is benign, 100% organic, and biodegradable. And when we move from well to well, we will take that with us because it is so expensive. It’s the best in the world. It is being used as a soil enricher or fertilizer in the US as well as other parts of the world. Proximal to the first well we are doing a pilot project with local residents where we are cultivating a large area, seeding it to vegetables, and fertilizing with the organic drilling fluid.
James Stafford: So when you move on, the land will be reclaimed and cultivated and there will be no pollution?
Craig Steinke: That’s right. And furthermore, with regards to the environment, it is hard to understand if you have never been to Kavango, but due to generational poverty, bush meat is high on the list of people’s priorities. No surprise. Consequently, the wildlife has been overhunted because people have no other options. Worse, poachers prey upon people with few options. RECO has assembled a wildlife team, led by a former Namibian Ranger to better assess the situation. We believe that bringing prosperity to the area will alleviate the pressure on the wildlife.
James Stafford: Can you give me 5 reasons to buy RECO stock this week?
Craig Steinke: In my opinion, the RECO Namibia drilling program is the most widely watched, highest impact, onshore drilling program in the world. One reason for that is this is a small Canadian company that managed to license the entire basin. There is nothing out there like it.
We have already had success. On the first well, we were drilling into an abyss. We didn’t know what we were drilling into, and the results went well beyond our expectations: 660 feet of light oil and high BTU gas in sedimentary and carbonate rocks.
We are drilling the second well right now, and we think that either the first well was a lucky hit or it is indicative of the results of the wells to come. That makes the second well extremely important.
We have strong support from the government and local community, which is essential.
In my opinion, the price of oil is going up in the medium term.
Due to the energy transition, investors are focused on short-cycle assets. If we are successful, we believe we could be trucking and shipping oil, as soon as late 2022.
James Stafford: Does that producing require additional licenses? Or is that covered?
Craig Steinke: If we deem the play commercial in conjunction with the government then we are entitled to a production license. But we have to move into that phase.
James Stafford: Is there any risk there?
Craig Steinke: I don’t see a lot of risks. Namibia needs this source of indigenous energy. It is the right thing to do to help pull the Namibian people out of poverty.
James Stafford: If you do start producing, could you do it on your own or would you need partners?
Craig Steinke: We anticipate that we will be looking for quality partners to help the Namibian government and RECO produce and develop the basin in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.
James Stafford: When I last spoke to geologist Dan Jarvie, he said his assessment suggests the Kavango Basin has generated up to 120 billion barrels of oil equivalent (on just 12% of the land). What does he think now?
Craig Steinke: His estimation was that the basin holds approximately 120 billion barrels, or that it has generated up to that. That hasn’t changed and we see no reason why that won’t be the case based on successful drilling results. It is still very preliminary, but it just supports his estimations. So yes, Dan is very happy these days.
James Stafford: Thanks for your time, Craig. You can find out more about Reconnaissance Energy Africa at the following links: (TSX.V: RECO, OTCMKTS:RECAF)
For readers interested in other oil companies that are engaged in drilling new fields please see below:
Other companies to watch that are drilling new major fields:
Chevron (NYSE:CVX) holds the spot of the second-largest oil company on the NYSE. Chevron is also betting big on Africa, particularly Nigeria and Angola. The supermajor ranks among the top oil producers in the two African nations. Other areas on the continent where the company holds interests include Benin, Ghana, the Republic of Congo and Togo. Chevron also holds a 36.7 percent interest in the West African Gas Pipeline Company Limited, which supplies Nigerian natural gas to customers in the region.
Though its assets are spread out across the region, it’s all strategic. With bets on both oil and natural gas, the company is looking to take advantage of both fossil fuels. Though prices are still depressed at the moment, as fuel demand returns to normal, Chevron could be a big winner as prices climb back up to pre-pandemic levels.
Though Chevron still has not bounced back from the massive hit it took back in March 2020, where it dropped to a 5-year low of just $59, the oil giant has made some progress thanks to recovering oil prices. Sitting at $104 at the time of writing, Chevron is slowly recuperating some of its losses and is positioned well to benefit in the mid to long term.
Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) is the third largest New York-listed company, coming in just under Chevron. And similar to Chevron, Shell has also made some big bets in Africa. In fact, it is one of the leaders in the region. The Dutch oil giant began drilling in the region over 70 years ago and now has energy assets in over 20 countries across the continent. Though it has sold off a number of its prized plays in the region in recent years, it continues to maintain a strong presence, especially in South Africa.
South Africa is key for Shell because the government has been significantly more stable than some of the other big bets on the continent. Moreover, the country has been very open to Shell in its projects. The company’s operations in South Africa include retail and commercial fuel, lubricant, chemical, and manufacturing. It’s also heavily invested in upstream exploration. It even holds the exploration rights to the Orange Basin Deep Water area, off the country’s west coast, and has applications for shale gas exploration rights in the Karoo, in central South Africa.
As the largest pure upstream company, ConocoPhillips Company (NYSE:COP) has performed relatively well in this depressed market, generating ample free cash flow and returning a good chunk of it to shareholders. Unlike many of its peers who continued to expand aggressively during the shale boom, COP has taken several steps to lower costs and fortify its balance sheet leading to one of the best cash positions in the oil patch.
ConocoPhillips has been gradually offloading non-core assets, including the sale of its North Sea oil and gas assets for $2.7B and the planned sale of its Australian assets for $1.4B. Its asset portfolio, however, remains healthy.
Conoco has been particularly bullish on oil demand outlook in 2021, and it was one of the few companies which did not partake in the mass-layoffs seen in the industry last year. In addition, Conoco has also seen a fairly decent about of insiders buying into its stock, which is a good sign.
Growing demand for the sweet crude oil grades produced by Brazil’s pre-salt oilfields sees Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) focused on developing its pre-salt operations. Brazil’s national oil company has budgeted capital spending for exploration and production activities of $46.5 billion from 2021 to 2025. Those upstream projects being approved for development must have a breakeven price of $35 per Brent or less.
Clearly, while the pandemic has hit Brazil’s oil industry causing production to fall because of savage budget cuts and well shut-ins, it appears to have done no material long-term damage. Demand for Petrobras’ low sulfur content fuel is firm and will grow because of the global push to significantly reduce sulfur emissions.
For these reasons Brazil’s oil production will grow significantly with Petrobras, which for October was responsible for 73% of the country’s oil output, targeting oil production of 2.7 million barrels daily by 2025.
Major North American pipeline operator Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI) has been particularly upbeat in recent months. In fact, in early December, it issued optimistic updates, planning higher dividends and expecting more profits in 2021, after the challenges the oil industry has faced this year.
The company expects US$1.2 billion in net profit for 2021, after a slim US$100 million net income expected for 2020. The small 2020 net profit will be due to hefty impairments the pipeline operator has made throughout the year.
Kinder Morgan also expects to raise its dividend for 2021 by 3 percent compared to this year. The company expects the board to declare a Q4 dividend of US$0.2625 per share or US$1.05 annualized. The board expects the 2021 dividend to be US$1.08 per share annualized or a 3-percent increase from the 2020 dividend.
"With budgeted excess coverage of that dividend, we expect also to be able to engage in share repurchases on an opportunistic basis," Kinder Morgan Inc's chief executive officer Steve Kean said.
Enbridge (NYSE:ENB, TSX:ENB) is in a unique position as oil and gas stages its 2021 comeback. As one of the more potentially undervalued companies in the sector, it could be set to win big this year. But that’s only if it can overcome some of the challenges in its path. Most specifically, its Line 3 project has faced scrutiny from environmentalists.
The $2.6-billion project plans to replace Enbridge's existing 282 miles of 34-inch pipeline with 337 miles of 36-inch pipe. The new Line 3 would have the capacity to move 370,000 barrels of oil per day, alleviating the takeaway capacity constraints that Canadian oil producers have been struggling with for years now. Line 3 is one of two pipeline projects in the works that are—in their unfinished state—keeping Canada's oil industry from reaching its potential.
While this challenge may prove difficult for Enbridge to overcome, the health of the Canadian oil industry is improving, and with it, the outlook for Canadian producers such as Enbridge. The company has already started the year off strong, and if it can continue its momentum, it will likely be able to see a sustained rally in its share price over the course of the year.
While Canada’s oil sector was one of the hardest hit by the oil price crisis, Canadian Natural Resources (NYSE:CNQ; TSX:CNQ) kept its dividend intact after swinging to a loss for the first half of the year, while Canada's producers are scaling back production by around 1 million bpd amid low oil prices and demand. Though Canadian Natural Resources kept its dividend, it withdrew its production guidance for 2020, however. It also said it would curtail some production at high-cost conventional projects in North America and oil sands operations and carry out planned turnaround activities at oil sands projects in the second half of 2020.
Despite the negative stigma surrounding the oil sands, the sector is starting to clean up its act a bit. And Canadian Natural Resources is leading the charge. And if analysts are right about Canada’s comeback, Canadian Natural Resources could be in for a big year.
Though the Canadian energy giant has seen its stock price slump this year, it could provide a potential opportunity for investors as oil prices rebound. It is already up over 170% from its March lows, and it could still have some more room to run.
TC Energy Corporation (NYSE:TRP, TSX:TRP) is a major oil and energy company based in Calgary, Canada. The company owns and operates energy infrastructure throughout North America. TC Energy is one of the continent’s largest providers of gas storage and owns and has interests in approximately 11,800 megawatts of power generation. It’s also one of the continent’s most important pipeline operators. With TC Energy’s massive influence throughout North America, it is no wonder that the company is among one of Canada’s highest valued energy companies.
One of TC Energy’s biggest struggles in recent years was grappling with the particularly difficult approval process for its Keystone Pipeline. But that’s all history now, and with the bounce back in oil and gas demand, TC Energy could stand to benefit.
While TC Energy’s stock price has yet to recover from pre-pandemic levels, it is one of the few industry giants which has managed to keep high dividends rolling in. With quarterly payouts exceeding 6%, TC has kept investors on board and its share price from falling too far.
As one of the biggest names in energy, Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) has adopted a number of high-tech solutions for finding, pumping, storing, and delivering its resources. Not only is it big in the oil sector, but it is also a leader in renewable energy. Recently, the company invested $300 million in a wind farm located in Alberta.
When the rebound in crude prices finally materializes, giants like Suncor are sure to do well out of it. While many of the oil majors have given up on oil sands production – those who focus on technological advancements in the area have a great long-term outlook. And that upside is further amplified by the fact that it is currently looking particularly under-valued compared to its peers.
CNOOC Limited (TSX:CNU) is one of China’s oil majors. It’s the country’s most significant producer of offshore crude oil and natural gas, and may well be one of the most controversial oil stocks for investors on the market. A label that has nothing to do with its operations, however.
It's not yet clear how the growing antipathy between the two nations will affect the U.S. natural gas sector, given that CNOOC is China's largest importer of LNG. But as the Biden Administration reshifts its focus, Chinese companies, including CNOOC, are likely to breathe freely once again, and it could be a boon for Chinese stocks.
By. James Stafford
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