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James Stafford

James Stafford

James Stafford is the Editor of Oilprice.com

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The Most Exciting Oil And Gas Play On The Planet? Interview with Bill Mooney

As Reconnaissance Energy Africa (TSXV:RECO, OTC:RECAF) continues to excite investors and industry experts alike, we sat down with the man responsible for what could be the next major development in this story. Bill Mooney is the president of Polaris Natural Resources Inc, the company charged with carrying out the 2d seismic imaging plans in what some are calling one of the most exciting oil plays on the planet.

During the interview, we touch on a number of points including:

- Why he believes Kavango has incredible potential and is one of the most exciting oil and gas plays on the planet.
- Why he thinks the equipment recon Africa is using is unlikely to cause environmental harm, especially to elephants
- Why he believes the equipment they will be using in the Kavango is well suited for environmentally sensitive areas
- Why he believes the Kavango has numerous traps and conventional reservoirs
- How 2d seismic imaging works
- How 2d may show if there is oil in the ground

James Stafford: I understand you have a vast amount of experience in international oil and gas plays. Given ReconAfrica has found oil in its first two wells (1) (2), how are you feeling about the prospectivity of the Kavango basin?

Bill Mooney: I am very definitely not an authority! However, given my geology background and having worked in basins in many countries for the last 40 years, it is rare to find a large virgin basin like Kavango! This basin is deep and contains Permian age rocks which were deposited between 250 and 300 million years ago. The Permian age on earth was marked by incredible organic growth. The entire earth was a giant hot steamy greenhouse. Since then, all of this organic material, buried deep in the earth with high pressure and temperatures, has literally been ‘recycled’ into oil and gas. I believe Kavango has incredible potential and is one of the most exciting oil and gas plays on the planet.

JS: Due to ReconAfrica’s analysis of much faulting and folding in the Kavango basin, do you expect to see numerous traps giving rise to conventional reservoirs?

BM: Yes! The aeromag data initially acquired shows not only a very large deep basin, it shows lots of relief (high and low points) within that basin. Over the last 450-500 million years the sediments deposited in the basin will eventually drape over these high basement structures, or be structurally deformed due to faulting and folding etc. These high points are one example of potential ‘structural traps’ for hydrocarbon.

JS: Could you please tell me how 2D Seismic imaging works?

BM: James – I’ve taken the liberty of finding a link for you that explains the principle of both 2D and 3D clearly. The differences between this explanation and what we are doing is #1 we are using wireless nodes rather than cables and geophones and #2 instead of the 4 big vibrators, we have a single smaller unit.

Seismic is basically taking an ultrasound (acoustic imaging) of the earth, just like you would investigate a body using ultrasound. 2D seismic is used to look across large areas while 3D is used to get much better 3D images over areas of interest. If you read the link I sent you it should all become clear: What is the Difference Between 2D and 3D Seismic |The Lundin Group

JS: How long have people been using the 2d equipment you are using in Kavango and in all that time has it ever been reported that it causes environmental damage or harm to animals?

BM: The equipment has rarely caused issues, it’s how the operation is prepared and left that makes the difference. With equipment, the older cable systems might get tangled under the feet of cattle for example but that would be very rare.

Canada was an early global leader in ‘low impact seismic’ or LIS methods. Narrow winding lines, not cutting down any big trees just the underbrush. Responsible seismic activity today is usually undetectable within a few months.

JS:  Some magazines have recently claimed that 2d seismic can harm elephants in some way and impact their directional abilities. What do you have to say about this?

BM: We have done over 15 projects in East Africa where we have had regular and daily animal viewing. The photo below was taken in the ‘middle’ of the active seismic program and nearby we had 4 of the very large vibrator trucks working in this immediate area. These giraffes (there were 5) sat grazing the whole time. I cannot comment with authority on elephants but we have seen them and they are typically shyer than most animals.

JS: Just how accurate is 2d? Will it show what is there exactly or does the data need to be interpreted?

BM: The data is accurate and will show subsurface images. These need to be interpreted to know what the different horizons represent. This is done by drilling a well on a seismic line.  If you see a geologic change at a certain depth, and you know what that change is, then you can follow it along the seismic line, or across a 3D. The line below (sorry it’s blurry) is approximately 40km long and is showing 6-8 km deep. You can see a huge fault and the structure.

JS: If there is oil in the ground – will 2d show it? Or will it show potential traps/reservoirs? Just how detailed does the data get?

BM: Seismic will see the structure or a stratigraphic trap (caused by a change to porous permeable rock). Stratigraphic traps can be subtle – big basin exploration looks more at structure like the example above. Sometimes gas accumulations can be detected with very sophisticated processing, that happens after we acquire the data and deliver it to those experts.

JS: You are working with Recon Africa in Namibia and going over 450 kilometers. What sort of data are you looking for?

BM: We will be investigating the basin to determine the depth and distribution of rocks, mapping the stratigraphy and associated structures. Geologists and geophysicists will interpret the data we provide.

JS: Can results be interpreted on the go? Allowing you to scan in the morning and evaluate what was scanned in the evening? So instantaneous results?

BM: Yes, our daily acquired data is put through a detailed QC process and ‘stacked’ every evening, then the hundreds of images we acquire are ‘stacked together’ to give us what we call a ‘brute stack’, or initial 2D image. If it passes our QC process, it is sent to the processing and interpretation group.  So brute stacks are generated every night for what we did that day.

JS: I have heard you will be using the Explorer 860 which, as I understand it, is the lightest impact seismic equipment in the world and was developed in conjunction with Apache in northeastern BC for a very environmentally sensitive area. Could you tell me more about the equipment and how it works?

BM: The Explorer 860 accelerated weight drop (“AWD”) was a design we brought to Apache and they said, if we built one that worked, they would help us build more, and also use them.   What our team came up with is very reliable and the most powerful AWD we are aware of.  We ‘spring load’ a 2900 lb mass by pushing it up into a nitrogen-charged accumulator system, and then when released we push it with a hydraulic ram. It hits a base plate that is part of the machine. It does no damage to the surface and is very fast. 

JS: Can the equipment be used for anything else?

BM: Seismic systems/geophones have been used for a wide variety of applications wherever ‘imaging the subsurface’ is the smart thing to do. This includes geotechnical for bedrock surveys, dam integrity, looking for gravels, mining, water, coal, oil and gas, and geothermal. It has also been used to monitor earthquakes and tremors. It’s been installed under ocean ways to track submarines and also to track animals and detecting human activity (security monitoring for example).

JS: Thank you for your time Bill.

Here are some other companies to watch as Africa’s oil and gas boom heats up:

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.

Egypt has also captured the attention of the oil giant in recent years. Just last year, in fact, the country awarded Chevron and Shell key exploration blocks in the red-hot Red Sea. The blocks cover a total area of around 10,000 sq km and carry a combined minimum investment of $326 million, Egypt’s petroleum ministry said, adding that potential investment would rise to "several billion dollars" if discoveries were made. Though its interests are spread out among the continent, it’s all planned. With bets on both oil and natural gas, Chevron is looking to take advantage of both of the fossil fuels. Though prices are still depressed at the moment, as fuel demand returns to normal, Chevron is set to soar when oil returns to pre-pandemic prices.

While it’s still an oil company at the core, Chevron has emerged as one of the fossil fuel industry’s biggest proponents of hydrogen, even playing a major role as a global advisory body to the Hydrogen Council in order to provide a long term vision for the role of hydrogen in the energy transition.

Chevron has not yet fully recovered from the massive hit it took back in January 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 $107 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, especially with its diversified approach to the industry.

Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) is third largest New York-listed company, coming in just under Chevron. The company is based in Holland, where it was founded over a century ago and employs almost 100,000 people. 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 the south of the continent.  

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.  

Shell isn't ignoring Namibia, either. 

“Namibia is one of the places where the geology is very interesting,” Shell Upstream’s VP of exploration for the Middle East and Africa, Colette Hirstius, recently told an African oil conference in Cape Town. “We recently acquired seismic data and are continuing to be encouraged by what we see,” she added. 

Exxon (NYSE:XOM) is another oil giant looking to cash in on Namibia’s upcoming crude oil boom. It recently bought up an additional 7 million net acres from the Namibian government for a block extending from the shoreline to about 135 miles offshore in water depths up to 13,000 feet, with exploration activities already in operation.

ExxonMobil isn’t ignoring the reality of the market, however. It has made major moves in its commitment to reduce its emissions. It claims to have about one-fifth of the world’s total carbon capture capacity. The company captures about 7 million tons per year of carbon.

ExxonMobil is also big in its commitment to reduce its emissions. It claims to have about one-fifth of the world’s total carbon capture capacity. The company captures about 7 million tons per year of carbon. This has been in place since 1970, and the company claims to have captured more CO2 than any other company — more than 40 percent of cumulative CO2 captured.

Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) is transforming itself to survive and thrive in an oilfield a fraction of the size it was only a few years ago. The emphasis is shifting from throwing big chunks of iron and a schoolyard full people at a project to minimizing capital intensity of operations through the digital PSO transformation we have discussed here. The digitalization of the global oilfield will prove to be very sticky and begin to deliver subscription-type returns to both companies.

SLB is ahead of the rest of the oilfield pack with their New Energy Genvia venture, which aims to produce carbon free blue hydrogen through a hydrogen-production technology venture in partnership with the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), and with Vinci Construction. This new venture will accelerate the development and first industrial deployment of the CEA high-temperature reversible solid oxide electrolyzer (SOE) technology.

SOE can potentially be a game-changing technology in the medium term because it offers a unique and efficient method to produce clean hydrogen by water electrolysis using a renewable source of electricity. Genvia’s mission is to deliver differentiated system efficiency when producing hydrogen from water, compared to current commercial electrolyzer technology, and as such, enabling clean hydrogen production at highly competitive price.

Baker Hughes (NYSE:BKR) is the world's largest oil field services company. They provide drilling, completion, production, and reservoir management products and services to customers in more than 100 countries around the world. Founded in 1919 as Geophysical Services Inc., Baker Hughes has grown into a global corporation with operations in over 120 locations across 30 countries.

Like many of its peers, Baker Hughes has also faced mounting pressure to join the green revolution. And it’s risen to the call-to-arms. Surprisingly, however, it wasn’t investor pressure that got Baker Hughes into the hydrogen boon. In fact, it’s been in the game for well over half a century. It built its first hydrogen compressor in 1962, and hasn’t stopped since.

Because it’s still primarily an oil field service company, however, Baker Hughes has had its share of ups and downs over the past year, but the $27 billion industry giant still remains a smart buy for long-term investors. Not only has it shown that it can adapt to the times, but it also pays dividends!

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 which 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.

Crescent Point Energy Corp.  (NYSE:CPG, TSX:CPG) was another Canadian oil producer that struggled in the oil price crisis of last year. The mid-cap company saw its share price tumble from a January high of $4.56 to an all-time low of just $0.70 as oil demand dissipated and prices tumbled into the negatives in a historically bad first-quarter. The terrible year forced the company to lower output and capex forecasts for 2021.

Despite its struggles, however, Crescent has seen its share price climb significantly over the past month. The 28% gain may just be the beginning of a turnaround for the embroiled Canadian oil giant. In fact, it has even received a ‘strong buy’ signal from analysts at Zack’s thanks to its strong price performance and improving technical.

In addition to bullish news from OPEC and Asian demand recovery, Canada’s oil sands are looking a bit more positive as well. According to government data, the controversial oil sands hit record-production in November and will likely continue to grow throughout the year. This turnaround in Canadian oil will likely be a boon for Crescent, and a full recovery is looking evermore probable.

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 generations. 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.

Suncor (NYSE:SU, TSX:SU) might be known mostly for its oil production. But it’s one of the few majors really pushing the boundaries. In fact, it has pioneered a number of high-tech solutions for finding, pumping, storing, and delivering its resources.  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.

But that’s just one part of its business, however. Suncor is also a world leader in renewable energy innovations. Recently, the company invested $300 million in a wind farm located in Alberta. Additionally, as Canada moves away from oil, Suncor is well positioned to take advantage of another one of the country’s resource reserves; Lithium. The best part? It doesn’t even have to move very far. In fact, Alberta’s oil sands are a major hotspot for lithium production.

When the rebound in crude prices finally materializes, diversified 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 (NYSE:CEO, 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.

Recently, U.S. regulators announced their intention to de-list Chinese companies from the New York Stock Exchange, going back on their announcement just a few days later. The sustained negative press surrounding Chinese companies, however, has put CNOOC in an uncomfortable position for investors. While many analysts see the company as significantly undervalued, it is still struggling to gain traction in U.S. markets.

It's only natural to wonder why CNOOC was targeted and not CNPC or Sinopec. Lin Boqiang, dean of the China Energy Policy Research Institute at Xiamen University in southern ChinaSo, suspects CNOOC's drilling activity in the South China Sea area is responsible for putting it at loggerheads with U.S. authorities.


Forward-Looking Statements. Statements contained in this document that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements that involve various risks and uncertainty affecting the business of Recon. All estimates and statements with respect to Recon’s operations, its plans and projections, size of potential oil reserves, comparisons to other oil producing fields, oil prices, recoverable oil, production targets, production and other operating costs and likelihood of oil recoverability are forward-looking statements under applicable securities laws and necessarily involve risks and uncertainties including, without limitation: risks associated with oil and gas exploration, including drilling and other exploration activities, timing of reports, development, exploitation and production, geological risks, marketing and transportation, availability of adequate funding, volatility of commodity prices, imprecision of reserve and resource estimates, environmental risks, competition from other producers, government regulation, dates of commencement of production and changes in the regulatory and taxation environment. Actual results may vary materially from the information provided in this document, and there is no representation that the actual results realized in the future will be the same in whole or in part as those presented herein. Other factors that could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements are also set forth in filings that Recon and its technical analysts have made. We undertake no obligation, except as otherwise required by law, to update these forward-looking statements except as required by law.

Exploration for hydrocarbons is a highly speculative venture necessarily involving substantial risk. Recon's future success will depend on its ability to develop its current properties and on its ability to discover resources that are capable of commercial production. However, there is no assurance that Recon's future exploration and development efforts will result in the discovery or development of commercial accumulations of oil and natural gas. In addition, even if hydrocarbons are discovered, the costs of extracting and delivering the hydrocarbons to market and variations in the market price may render uneconomic any discovered deposit. Geological conditions are variable and unpredictable. Even if production is commenced from a well, the quantity of hydrocarbons produced inevitably will decline over time, and production may be adversely affected or may have to be terminated altogether if Recon encounters unforeseen geological conditions. Adverse climatic conditions at such properties may also hinder Recon's ability to carry on exploration or production activities continuously throughout any given year.


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