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Aminex met en veilleuses en Tanzanie

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AEX (6.88p) From Oilbarrel:-

April 01, 2009

Aminex Changes Tack To Sail In Safer Waters To Weather The Current Storm.

The long term value in the AMINEX portfolio lies in Tanzania, where the London and Dublin listed firm was an early mover, securing a promising footprint in the emerging East African coastal margin play. But these challenging times are forcing many companies to take a more short term approach: tomorrow’s jam has been shelved as the focus is all about today’s bread and butter.
And when it comes to Aminex, that bread and butter lies in the US where the company has interests in a number of oil and gas fields in Texas and Louisiana. Unlike the company’s Nyuni, Songo Songo West and Ruvuma licences in Tanzania, the US assets are not company-makers but they do provide income from oil and gas production to ensure survival through these troubled times. Accordingly, the company plans to change tack – a sailing analogy seems appropriate given chairman Brian Hall’s enthusiasm for the sport – and sail towards the safe harbour of oil and gas production in the US.

Aminex has certainly had some successes in the US of late, with production climbing on the back of recent discoveries. Compared to East Africa, these wells can be drilled relatively cheaply and swiftly tied into existing infrastructure, ensuring a ready payback on investment.

In Q3 2008 the company drilled its most successful well in the US with the Sunny Ernst-2 well on the Alta Loma field in Galveston County. The field tested gas at a rate of 6 million cubic feet per day and 300 barrels of oil per day from only one of the four formations logged. The revenues from this single well should cover the company’s corporate expenses through 2009 as long as commodity prices and production hold up. This is reassuring news for investors.

Continuous drilling on the South Weslaco field in Hidalgo County, Texas is also making a positive contribution to the balance sheet, with gross production of 3 million cf/d (Aminex has a 25 per cent working interest). The SWGU-38 well was completed in 2008 and is now delivering gas to market while a further well, SWGU-39, is due to be hooked up.

In Louisiana, the company holds 100 per cent of the Shoats Creek field, where a 3D seismic survey has unveiled some very promising results. The potential 2P reserves of this property are reckoned to be more than twice the size of all Aminex’s other US properties combined and the company is now seeking farm-in partners to push ahead with drilling work. It reports a “high initial level of interest”.

The fourth property in the US portfolio is a stripper oil production project at Somerset in San Antonio, Texas. The fall in the oil price meant this project was sub-economic but cost-cutting and the recent rally in the price of oil has aided the project economics. Even so, the company is keeping a close eye on the profitability of Somerset: this is not a time to carry loss-making assets.

In all, the company’s US gas production rose 123 per cent in 2008 over 2007 levels at 314 million cubic feet (0.86 million cf/d), largely on the back of the Sunny Ernst-2 well on the Alta Loma field and increased production from the South Weslaco field. Oil production from the Somerset and Alta Loma fields was up 24 per cent at 36,000 barrels (just under 100 bpd).

Aminex has not ditched its frontier exploration ambitions in East Africa but it has had the good sense to recognize that capital markets have little or no appetite to support this kind of risk in the current climate. It will, therefore, seek to progress its East African portfolio at a slower pace, funded by farm-in partners or the proceeds from other asset disposals (it got rid of its Madagascar licence in 2008, wisely it would seem given the recent unrest there).

The London firm has proven the potential of its Nyuni licences in Tanzania, with the success of the Kiliwani North-1 well, which flowed 40 million cubic feet per day in early 2008. This discovery vindicated Aminex’s perseverance in Tanzania despite earlier setbacks, including the disappointing Kiliwani-1 well of early 2008 and the inconclusive Nyuni-1 well of 2004, which almost broke the company. As Brian Hall pointed out in the company’s results statement on Tuesday, which saw revenues rise 9 per cent to US$10.2 million on the back of higher production and commodity prices, Aminex is the most active driller and arguably the most successful pure explorer in this area in recent times.

“No other frontier exploration well in the last twenty five years on the coastal margin has been as successful as Kiliwani North-1,” he said.

The discovery is now being appraised, with a seismic shoot due in mid-2009 to define the areal extent of the field which lies just 3 km from the processing facilities for the producing Songo Songo gas field. There are also additional prospects nearby worthy of investigation. This will, however, be some way down the road given the funding requirements for drilling in East Africa.

Nonetheless, the company’s first well on the highly promising Ruvuma Basin PSA in southern Tanzania is expected in late 2009. Aminex is actively seeking a farm-in partner for this wildcat project where it is already a 50/50 partner with City darling Tullow Oil.

In Kenya, a seismic survey is planned over the coastal L17 and L18 blocks. And in Egypt, drilling is planned on the West esh el Mellahah permit (WEEM-2) in the onshore Gulf of Suez region. The first two wells here, drilled last summer, were P&A but Aminex has a 10 per cent carried interest, making this a risk free venture for the firm. No activity is planned in North Korea, where the political situation remains unstable.

The new focus on the US, as opposed to high impact wildcatting in East Africa, may seem dull compared to previous years. But in the current risk-averse, cash-constrained environment, dull will do very nicely.

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