Peru’sing Oil Reserves in South America

An interesting article in The Wall Street Journal, detailing Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company’s big bet that it can make money in Peru and other spots that big oil companies won’t touch. As the article notes, the venture is a throwback to true wildcatting (and black sheep) days:

“…The company’s biggest wager is on Peru. Royal Dutch Shell spent nearly 20 years and $450 million to develop a natural-gas project in the Amazon before pulling out empty-handed in 1998. Hunt took Shell’s place in this volatile country two years later. Amid protests from international environmental groups and local Indian activists, Hunt soon plans to pump gas from Amazon wells and pipe it over 14,000-foot Andean peaks where alpacas graze. The company is building a massive plant overlooking the Pacific Ocean to export liquefied natural gas.

…Mr. Hunt compares his 2,500 employees to a commando outfit. His privately held company can move quickly because it isn’t second-guessed by shareholders or Wall Street analysts. Hunt discovered oil in northern Yemen in the 1980s, for instance, when oil majors shunned the region because it was then claimed by Saudi Arabia.

But such projects are also a gamble. Two years ago, the Yemeni government seized Hunt’s main oil operations. Afterward, Hunt’s global oil production plummeted by 30% in 2006, according to Moody’s Investors Service. Moody’s downgraded the company’s credit rating a notch.

The Yemeni setback makes Hunt’s bet on Peru even more important. The company doesn’t expect much growth in its oil and natural-gas fields in Texas, the Gulf of Mexico and Canada, industry analysts say. In Peru, though, it owns 50% of a $3.8 billion consortium set to start exports of liquefied natural gas in 2010, and it is also searching for oil elsewhere in the country. If Hunt succeeds in Peru, it figures it can expand elsewhere in Latin America.

…In Yemen, the Bush connection became one rationale to justify the 2005 expropriation of Hunt’s properties, although Hunt figures the Yemenis were motivated by rising oil prices. Hunt is seeking more than $1 billion from Yemen in international arbitration. It is also still smarting over an earlier Yemeni decision to choose Total SA over Hunt to build an LNG project, even though it was Hunt that discovered a big natural-gas field. Hunt is relegated to a 17% stake in Yemen LNG.

…Hunt has more plans for Peru, which has opened wide swaths of the Amazon for oil-and-gas exploration. The company plans to explore for oil in a part of the Peruvian rain forest abandoned earlier this year by another oil major, ConocoPhillips. Conoco pulled out under pressure from Achuar Indians, who protested at the company’s Houston headquarters wearing traditional robes and headgear and lobbied shareholders with the help of Amazon Watch, a U.S. environmental group. “We aren’t interested in operating counter to the interests of the [local] population,” says a ConocoPhillips spokesman…”

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 29th, 2007 at 3:54 pm and is filed under Peru, Yemen.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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Wildcats & Black Sheep is a personal interest blog dedicated to the identification and evaluation of maverick investment opportunities arising in frontier - and, what some may consider to be, “rogue” or “black sheep” - markets around the world.

Focusing primarily on The New Seven Sisters - the largely state owned petroleum companies from the emerging world that have become key players in the oil & gas industry as identified by Carola Hoyos, Chief Energy Correspondent for The Financial Times - but spanning other nascent opportunities around the globe that may hold potential in the years ahead, Wildcats & Black Sheep is a place for the adventurous to contemplate & evaluate the emerging markets of tomorrow.