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Revealed: The smallcap poised to take big advantage of the huge Monterey Shale oil play
The biggest oil formation in the U.S. goes into production this year, and V.ZEX is right in the middle of it.
When the Bakken shale oil play really got rocking, stocks like Continental Resources Inc. ( NYSE: CLR, Stock Forum) went from $10-$100, and Brigham Exploration went from $2-$36—all in just 2-3 years.
When the Eagle Ford got rolling, stocks like PetroHawk Energy Corp. went from a few dollars to $37.
It makes me wonder what will happen to Zodiac Exploration Inc.’s ( TSX: V.ZEX, Stock Forum) when the Monterey Shale gets solved.
And I don’t think I’m going to have to wait very long to find out. A series of “tight holes” by leading industry players makes me think we’re getting close.
I’ve written before that the Monterey Shale in California actually has 60% of the technically recoverable oil in all the US—yet has no real production yet. This play is so big that it is actually twice the size of the Bakken in North Dakota and 4x the size of the Eagle Ford in Texas.
And Zodiac is the best way to gain direct exposure to the Monterey. Zodiac has some very big leverage to the biggest US shale play.
In fact, Zodiac may offer investors more barrels of oil in place per dollar of market capitalization than any other publicly traded company. It has a market capitalization of $32 million—and $17 million or five cents a share in net cash—with exposure to more than 4 Billion Barrels of oil in place. That's a great position for a micro-cap stock and a legend as its Chairman.
So how big is the Monterey? In 2011 the EIA (Energy Information Agency) released a study called “Review of Emerging Resources – U.S. Shale Gas and Shale Oil Plays”—where it named the Monterey/Santos as—by far--the largest shale oil play in the United States with over 15 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.
Zodiac Exploration has just under 72,000 acres of prime Monterey land—that also includes a few other geologic formations with a lot of oil potential.
The industry calls that “stacked pay”, and Zodiac’s land position full of stacked pay could not be replicated today. And it’s the only publicly traded company that focuses exclusively on the Monterey zones and source rocks.
In early 2009 Zodiac identified a light oil resource opportunity in California and aggressively began locking up acreage.
Thanks to moving early and quickly, Zodiac built their land position—at bargain prices. And we know there is oil there—in the 1970’s and 1980’s adjacent wells to the Zodiac lands produced over 500,000 barrels of oil. These vertical wells also provided all kinds of useful geological data.
An independent resource report prepared on Zodiac’s Jaguar acreage—only 40,000 of their 72,000 acres--estimated mean Total Petroleum Initially-In-Place of just over 4 Billion Barrels.
The largest entire Canadian tight oil plays have the following amounts of oil in place:
Cardium 10.6 billion barrels
Viking 5.0 billion barrels
Shaunavon 3.0 billion barrels
Swan Hills 2.9 billion barrels
So Zodiac Exploration sits on as much oil as entire leading Canadian resource plays. The leverage this company has to this play is not just rare, it’s unique.
Like the Bakken and Eagle Ford were ten years ago, the Monterey today is not “development ready”. Oil producers are still trying to crack the geological code and figure out how extract oil from the play profitably.
And like the Bakken and Eagle Ford it really isn’t a matter of “if” the industry figures out the Monterey, it is a matter of “when”.
And “when” that happens, land prices in these shale plays see huge jumps—from tens to thousands of dollars per acre. At $10,000 per acre, which would be low for a successful oil resource play (Eagle Ford acreage goes for $15,000 to $25,000 per acre), Zodiac’s 71,600 acres would be worth $716 million. That is just a hair under $2 per Zodiac share. (That would be more than a 20-bagger ;-))
It has happened in every other major shale oil play in the US. And once the code is cracked, it spreads like wildfire across the play and the production increases start.
This is incredible upside potential for a company with no debt and a good chunk of cash on the balance sheet.
And back to the "when”--I have reason to believe it could be very soon.
Right next to Zodiac is Occidental Petroleum Corp. ( NYSE: OXY, Stock Forum) with 900,000 acres in the Monterey--the largest acreage position in the play. So they are highly motivated to crack the Monterey code, and they have deep enough pockets to do it.
Last year OXY discovered a 50 million barrel “unconventional” deposit in California—that’s another word for tight oil or shale oil. And on its latest conference call, OXY called it “repeatable”. They also said that most of any increased spending in California would be on unconventional plays—then allowed analysts to speculate that they could IPO their California assets some time in the near future.
Any good news out of OXY on the Monterey—and Zodiac could turn into a multi-bagger for shareholders.
Now, Zodiac is working to move the Monterey forward as well. After all, it was the juniors and intermediates who developed the Bakken—the majors came in dead last, buying everybody else after the hard work was done.
Last October, Zodiac signed a joint venture agreement with Aera Energy—one of the largest private energy companies in the USA—on 19,600 acres of Zodiac’s land in King’s County California. In exchange for 50% of those acres Aera agreed to pay 100% of the drilling for two vertical and two horizontal wells. They're attracting that kind of attention.
The first well under this program drilled through several of the stacked pays, and reached 15,000 feet--its total vertical depth--on April 29, 2013. It remains on a “tight-hole” status, where they don’t have to tell the market what they found.
Zodiac is also actively talking to several other companies interested in their acreage.
With well results still waiting to be disclosed and active discussions ongoing it is curious that Zodiac’s shares are moving. It tells me the market is expecting news.
The company has no debt and $17 million in cash in the bank ($0.05 per share). At the current share price ($0.08) that means that investors are paying all of $0.03 per share or not much more than $10 million for exposure to more than 4 Billion Barrels of oil in place.
Another positive for the company and the stock is Chairman Bob Cross. I got to know Bob ten years ago when he took over the shell that became Bankers Petroleum—for just under 1 cent a share. The company now produces 18,000 barrels a day of oil and has traded to $10.
His BKX Petroleum just ran from $0.85-$1.40 in a week. Success follows Bob likes pucks follow Wayne Gretzky.
So Zodiac’s stock is now moving up, as the Market sees the huge leverage it has to all the stacked pay in the Monterey. OXY’s big drilling plans in the Monterey—at least 15 wells and $300 million in capex--in the coming six months clearly has the Market intrigued in Zodiac.
Paying almost nothing for something that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars is how fortunes are made. And all it is going to take is one smart petroleum engineer cracking the code on this massive play.
There is clearly big potential for Zodiac. And with several tight holes in the play, and an active drilling program by OXY, the discovery clock is ticking faster now.
Keith Schaefer is publisher of the Oil and Gas Investments Bulletin http://oilandgas-investments.com/
Read more at http://www.stockhouse.com/opinion/independent-reports/2013/08/21/zodiac-exploration-poised-for-start-of-monterey-sh#sXz7xSFYbBju0tW3.99