Carnarvon in solid position for big year ahead

CARNARVON Petroleum has been in the spotlight since its big 2018 find offshore northern Western Australia and had more good news for the market this morning in its final quarterly report for 2019.
Carnarvon in solid position for big year ahead Carnarvon in solid position for big year ahead Carnarvon in solid position for big year ahead Carnarvon in solid position for big year ahead Carnarvon in solid position for big year ahead

Paul Hunt

Senior Journalist: Energy & Commodities

Paul Hunt

This morning Carnarvon said it was on track to begin front-end engineering and design "early in the calendar year" for the Dorado development it shares with operator Santos in an 80%-20% split.

Dorado has a resource estimate of 158 million barrels of oil and 628 billion cubic feet of gas on a 2C basis.

Over the quarter Santos and Carnarvon conducted successful flow tests of the Dorado-3 appraisal well, which showed "great results" with flow rates reaching maximum possible flows of 11,100 barrels of oil per day plus 21 million cubic feet of gas per day.

The venture expects FEED to begin within the first half of this year, though Santos' report of this morning suggests FEED entry in the second quarter of the year.

The two have settled on a design concept that incorporates a floating production storage and offloading vessel but Carnarvon said no decision on whether to buy or lease had yet been reached.

Santos is also the operator in the Phoenix project which it shares with Carnarvon.

This morning Carnarvon said it expected 3D seismic acquired last year would be available in the coming weeks.

It has already identified a number of "exciting and material exploration opportunities" across the four licenses which make up Phoenix.

Two of these prospects, Pavo and Apus, contain more than 612mmbbls of oil on a 2C basis.  

Carnarvon is well financed with a strong cash balance of A$119 million and no debt. This was higher than the company anticipated due to lower costs of appraisal drilling at the Dorado field.

As a result, Carnarvon managing director Adrian Cook said it is "able to very comfortably cover all of its planned 2020 expenditure".

It spent $13 million on exploration drilling over the December quarter primarily on the Dorado-3 appraisal well and technical work on other exploration activities unrelated to Dorado.

These other exploration activities included the Buffalo project which was once in Australian Commonwealth waters, but due to the maritime boundary treaty now lies in Timor Leste's waters.

Carnarvon is seeking a partner to join it in the PSC and noted it was "integral" to develop the field.

Whether or not it finds a joint venture partner or not will impact the company's funding strategy and its future Dorado developments.

Over the three months ending December 31, Carnarvon also handed back its WA-524-P exploration permit, saying prospects were not deemed to be material within the company's portfolio.

It will instead focus on Dorado, Buffalo and Phoenix.

Carnarvon's final quarterly for 2019 and prudent financial expenditure prompted RBC Capital Markets to maintain an ‘outperform' rating.

RBC analyst Ben Wilson noted the low-cost development of Buffalo, and the size of the Dorado development.

"Both potential developments sit in shallow water with strong reservoir characteristics," Wilson said.

Furthermore, RBC expect a shareprice target of 70 cents, nearly double its current price.

Carnarvon was up 3% at midday trading at 36.5 cents per share. It has a market cap of $555 million.