In Mississippi, just a few kilometres from the town of Natchez, KFG Resources (TSX.V: KFG) is about to try something that CEO Bob Kadane believes will create significant value for his company’s shareholders.
Buried beneath the Fayette field is the Fayette salt dome – the last hydrocarbon-bearing salt dome of its kind in the region that has not been redeveloped. In February 2008, KFG will carry out the first 3D seismic imaging survey on the Fayette salt dome in which it holds a 100% working interest. The data from the seismic survey will be analysed with existing data from more than 100 well logs to determine the best fifteen or more targets for a drill program to be started this summer. The goal will be to drill through multiple oil and gas formations in the shallow Wilcox Formation (from 3,500 to 3,900) and the Lower Tuscaloosa (9,600 feet).
Salt domes like the Fayette were deposited millions of years ago when the shores of the Gulf of Mexico were located far inland from their current position. As waters evaporated, they left thick pockets of salt in layers. Over the millennia, these were buried by sand, soil and sediment. Over time, the thick layers of salt bowed in the centre and penetrated upward through the existing strata of rock – hence the “dome” shape of the structures. The salt is hard and impenetrable; the upward bending of the salt formed traps or pockets where oil and gas collected, often in large quantities.
There are numerous salt features located in the area surrounding Natchez. While most have been thoroughly explored and exploited from the 1930s until the present, the Fayette Salt Dome has seen only limited exploration.
Of the 4,000 acres that comprise the Fayette field and salt dome, only a fraction has been explored. Historically, exploration companies have drilled 29 deep holes on the east side of the dome. The west side, however, has only seen eight deep drill holes – which makes the west side a priority target.
The problem with mapping on the west side of the dome, Kadane says, “has been that the drill holes are too far apart to make any logical conclusions from the surface mapping (well logs). Some of them had small quantities of oil and gas production, so they could be the edge of a larger untapped reservoir. These old wells are 1,000 to 2,000 feet apart and you could have a reservoir easily run right between them and not even know it. And that’s what the seismic will tell us.”
3-D seismic surveys, or "seismics" as they are commonly called, use sound waves to locate rock formations in the earth that are associated with oil and gas. Acoustic vibrations are created either by a controlled explosion, or more often, by use of a vibration truck, which thumps the ground creating waves that radiate into the earth. The sound waves are reflected off subterranean rock, sediment, salt and other layers. The length of time required for the waves to travel through layers of varying densities is used to create a profile of the structure. With the use of computers, 3-D seismics have becomes incredibly detailed and complex. Billions of data points are compiled to create a three dimensional image of the underground structures thus dramatically reducing the element of chance in drilling wells.
Then there are the well logs from more than fifty previously drilled wells in the Fayette field. These well logs are like electric cardiogram images depicting a foot by foot image of the types of hydrocarbons present down a well hole. With the log data, the presence of hydrocarbons is measured up and down the drill hole and outward about 20 feet in all directions.
In addition, Kadane says, 3D seismic survey signatures will show areas of undepleted shallow gas as well as the undepleted oil reserves. In all, this adds up to a potentially huge amount of hydrocarbons.
Although KFG’s earlier plans to recomplete its existing three Lower Tuscaloosa gas condensate wells were successful, they represented only the initial phase of hydrocarbon recovery from the Fayette field. With those online, the Fayette Field is presently producing 20 barrels of oil and 250 MCF of gas per day. Kadane says these were just a fraction of what could be underground here.
“If I walk away from this with just five successful wells, I’m going to be disappointed, Kadane says.”
He points out that every other similar salt feature in the Gulf Region that has seen 3D seismic survey data used in conjunction with down-hole well log data has been successful in finding new oil and gas reservoirs in just about every producing horizon.
The Fayette field is structurally similar to oil company Denbury’s (NYSE: DNR) numerous projects in Louisiana and Mississippi, including other salt domes that Denbury has drilled for primary recovery or pumped CO2 into for secondary recovery. Denbury is one of the largest oil and natural gas operator in Mississippi and owns the largest reserves of CO2 used for secondary oil recovery east of the Mississippi River. In recent years, Denbury has systematically acquired many of the known salt formations throughout Mississippi and Louisiana.
“These old producing fields with salt features have been redeveloped by Denbury and others by doing exactly what we’re doing – 3D seismics and well logs – and then redrilling the areas and finding new reservoir traps, new fault traps, deeper beds, shallower beds. The reason there are still untapped resources down there is that using well logs alone didn’t give enough indication for the zones to be successfully tested for hydrocarbons.”
Historically, more than two million barrels of oil and 8 billion cubic feet of gas were produced from the Lower Tuscaloosa formation at Fayette. Kadane emphasises that most of the historical production was from the east side of the Fayette salt dome, which has seen most of the drilling.
“There no reason I can think of why the same or similar won’t be possible to find on the west side, where only eight holes have been drilled,” he points out.
While KFG focuses on drilling the untapped side of the salt dome, there remains another value-opportunity to consider as well. The Denbury model of secondary recovery using CO2 requires substantial capital to initiate, but is a very profitable model for that company. Kadane says the secondary model is one he is considering – once the company has the seismic data.
“It has been every economic for companies like Denbury to revisit these older depleted reservoirs throughout Louisiana and Mississippi,” Kadane says. “Another object of the 3D then is to figure out exactly where the old depleted reservoirs are so you’ll know where to put your injection wells for a secondary recovery project.
“We’ve already been approached by Denbury to sell Fayette and we would have done a JV, but I wasn’t about to sell it. They’ve done their homework – they know what’s there.”
KFG Resources has 42,147,311 net shares outstanding and presently trades at $0.09 per share.
This article is intended for information purposes only, and is not a recommendation to buy or sell the equities of any company mentioned herein. It is based on sources believed to be reliable, but no warranty as to accuracy is expressed or implied. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author except where statements are attributed to individuals other than the author, in which case the opinions are those of the individual to whom they are attributed.