Friday, December 09, 2011

Spend Capex If You Want Difficult Oil

Oil explorers and developers seem at first glance to have a bright future with WTI hovering near $100/bbl.  Think again.  Chevron has to spend a record $33B on capex just to run in place with existing production.  They'll need the added value that cleaner fuels bring to their product mix if margins continue to remain tight at its 50% owned GS Caltex affiliate

The obvious lesson is that supermajors are best positioned to lead the energy sector's exploration for hard-to-get oil shale, methane hydrates, and other exotic hydrocarbons.  They can afford to spend the dough needed to stick straws into the ground in the world's remote backwaters.  The less obvious news is that junior oil and gas developers and explorers won't look attractive as acquisition targets unless their costs of production are affordable, i.e. among the bottom 25% of the world's cost curve. 

I continue to be amused by claims from junior explorers that they can explore and develop properties in politically unstable countries with uncertain geological confirmation.  There is precious little easy money to be made in petroleum.  Buyer beware. 

Full disclosure:  No position in CVX at this time.