Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Oxy is California Dreamin' About Monterey Shale

California's Occidental Petroleum Corp. (Oxy) is eyeing 7 billion bbl of reserves from the Monterey Shale and other projects in the state, the management team said Tuesday.

The state's top gross oil and gas producer is pursuing unconventional projects that include developing the 2.1 million net acres it has in California, as well as several water and steam flood projects, which hold potentially billions of barrels of reserves, Vicki Hollub, executive vice president in charge of California operations, told analysts during a conference call.

The company has created 3,000 new jobs and invested $8.5 billion in the state since 2010, Hollub said. She recited a litany of water and steam flood and unconventional drilling projects in the Monterey Shale that the independent is pursuing.

"This provides Oxy with reservoir development opportunities that range from conventional to steam to water floods and unconventional," Hollub said.

She emphasized that Oxy sees a 7 billion barrel gusher of potential reserves. "That number is based on what we have seen in the areas we have been developing thus far...We feel comfortable with that number."

However, CEO Stephen Chazen added that the estimate is a "risk number."

Oxy's board now is reviewing a series of restructuring options, one in which its California operations would become a stand-alone company.

Chazen confirmed more than once that one of the restructuring options is to spin off the California operations.

"At this point the board has just been exposed to this in detail in one meeting, so it will take a little while" before there is something more definitive to talk about, Chazen said. "But some things will be going ahead quickly" by the end of this year.

Some analysts on the conference call appeared skeptical of Oxy cashing in on a big upswing in California, but Hollub and Chazen said the company is just beginning to tap into the unconventional space.

"So far, we have only drilled on 5% of our unconventional acreage," Hollub said. "We're still learning a lot about the Monterey Shale, and even in Elk Hills, where we have drilled in excess of 1,300 wells, we're still learning a lot about that area." She said Oxy is taking what it has learned, giving it to a newly formed technical team, and will begin soon to expand into new parts of the Monterey as a result.

"I think for the next two years you'll see more activity in the areas Vicki has pointed out," said Chazen. The build-out will take some time because Oxy is "looking for high predictability" in all of the ventures.

Net income in 2Q2013 was flat from a year ago at $1.3 billion ($1.64/share). Total global production of 772,000 boe/d was a 6,000 boe/d increase year/year.

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