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About those "inactive" oil leases ...
Posted by: McQ on Monday, June 23, 2008

The Democrats have answered the "drill here, drill now" crowd by saying that 80+% of the leases presently owned by oil companies are non-producing.

As usual, their answer is clueless legislation - they would, by law, compel the oil and natural gas companies to produce from the federal lands they're presently leasing before talking about any additional leases. And since they're obviously not doing that at present, or so the reasoning goes, there's no need for more leases or opening more territory for leases.

Now, anyone with the IQ of a hamster can see through the absurdity of that position. It assumes two things. One is that all of those leases will produce oil and gas and the oil companies just aren't doing anything to produce it. Naturally, that posits that oil and gas is everywhere and all you have to do is drill. If that were the case, I'd have an oil rig in my backyard pumping out crude right now. The fact is, you're more likely, by a lot, not to find enough recoverable oil and gas on a lease than you are.

Red Cavaney of API covers the second part of why this is absolute nonsense in a WSJ article:
A company bids for and buys a lease because it believes there is a possibility that it may yield enough oil or natural gas to make the cost of the lease, and the costs of exploration and production, commercially viable. The U.S. government received $3.7 billion from company bids in a single lease sale in March 2008.

However, until the actual exploration is complete, a company does not know whether the lease will be productive. If, through exploration, it finds there is no oil or natural gas underneath a lease – or that there is not enough to justify the tremendous investment required to bring it to the surface – the company cuts its losses by moving on to more promising leases. Yet it continues to pay rent on the lease, atop a leasing bonus fee.

In addition, if the company does not develop the lease within a certain period of time, it must return it to the federal government, forfeiting all its costs. All during this active exploration and evaluation phase, however, the lease is listed as "nonproducing."

Obviously, companies want to start producing from active fields as soon as possible. However, there are a number of time-consuming steps to be taken before they can do so: Delineation wells must be drilled to size the field, government permits must be obtained, and complex production facilities must be engineered and installed. All this takes considerable time, and during that time, the lease is also listed as "nonproducing."

Because a lease is not producing, critics tag it as "idle" when, in reality, it is typically being actively explored and developed. Multiply these real-world circumstances by hundreds or thousands of leases, and you end up with the seemingly damning but inaccurate figures our critics cite.
And to get to the literal bottom-line point of all of this, Richard Ranger, a senior policy advisor with the API gives you that side of the story:
[C]ompanies in the industry are in the business of producing oil and natural gas and their products for profit. ... [T]he companies bid on these leases, they lay down risk capital often, and in many cases, offshore in the tens of millions of dollars. ... [T]here?s every expectation in the marketplace, every expectation from their shareholders that when they?re putting that capital down front-end and then they're continuing to invest new capital at risk in the seismic work which can cost a couple hundred grand a day for offshore seismic program, it can take several months.

Drilling operations, which in the Gulf deep water, can exceed, $100 (million), $200 (million), $300 million of wealth. There?s every expectation that at the earliest possible point, those capital dollars invested at risk generate revenues.

And that?s even more the case for the independent sector of the oil and gas industry and a lot of the integrated majors are API members. But particularly out west ... the independents are responsible for drilling some 80 percent of the wells that are drilled out there. And a lot of them are funded by venture capital. So if anyone who knows anything about the expectations of the contemporary marketplace in every other line of business, there is that expectation that you turn investment into returns as quickly as possible. So the idea that companies are sitting on these leases is simply a basket of red herring.
Follow the money. Money that is invested by public companies and venture captialists is not going to be invested into something which is not going to produce revenue. And that means oil and gas. Anyone who doesn't take the time to figure that reality into the rhetoric, to include a whole lot of ignorant congress people, are engaged in the lowest level of red fishmongering.

The fact is the leases which show promise are being worked and are in one of phases of development that Cavaney lists in his article. And playing rhetorical games with the language to suit a political position doesn't help anyone solve the imminent energy crisis we face.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

And so the question that follows is: are the Democrats stupid or liars?

Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
I suspose that the Democrats don’t want to discuss the Bakken formation oil rush in the Williston Basin of eastern Montana, western North Dakota and Saskatchewan? It has been known about for 50 years but now the technology is available to recover it. If the estimates are correct there is almost twice the oil there than in Saudi Arabia and is recoverable by slant drilling and pressure cracking of the rock formation. It is clean, sweet, non sulfurous oil located relatively close to existing pipe lines. See and
Written By: AMR
URL: http://
Just because you have the leases does not mean you got the permits and environmental groups aren’t holding you up in court.

On Kudlow last week, Xavier Becerra was on and everyone kept telling him that the permits and lawsuits are holding them up. His only response was basically that they had the leases so drill, and when you use those leases up we’ll let you have more. All the while he had a sh*t eating grin on his face as if he knew that what they were saying was true, but tough. I wanted to reach thru the screen and smack him upside the head. Still, I don’t think it would help.
Written By: tonto
URL: http://
Let’s assume the democrats revoke the oil leases. That action would entail a termination for convenience and since the government elected to cancel the agreement before the companies could recover their costs the government would probably be required to repay the costs incurred to date.

If they simply refused to renew the leases as they expire, how would the Feds replace this rather substantial source of revenue? Taxes, maybe?

As Aretha Franklin said, "You better think!"
Written By: arch
URL: http://
And so the question that follows is: are the Democrats stupid or liars?
Do I have to choose?
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Good answer.
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
I suppose gas has to hit $8 or $9 dollars a gallon before anything rational is ever done....if even then.

Oh well.

At least I’ll get to laugh at the idiots for voted for their own ruin.
Written By: shark
URL: http://
At least I’ll get to laugh at the idiots for voted for their own ruin.
You know they have an easy answer to that. Republicans
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Capt Joe has a point. I just watched the press conference where the school administration blamed the pregnancy pact on No Child Left Behind. It’s Bush’s fault the 9th & 10th grade Mass teenagers decided to have children!
Written By: arch
URL: http://
That action would entail a termination for convenience and since the government elected to cancel the agreement before the companies could recover their costs the government would probably be required to repay the costs incurred to date.
They would have to compensate them on a cost-plus basis.
Written By: Is
URL: http://
You really don’t think we’re in this oil mess because we have had two oil execs running the country for the last 7 years? The comment about Dems being stupid or liars is pretty humorous considering how accurately it describes the current occupants of the Oval Office.
Written By: annmac
URL: http://
Simply stated! The Dem’s are stupid! They also have the lowest approval rating in the history of congress.
Written By: russ
URL: http://

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