(Unfortunately I did not have the time to fully research this.)
Improvements in shale extraction technology and a glut of capital have basically destroyed oil and natural gas prices. While Exxon’s management is ok, the company cannot defy commodity prices. Its upstream assets aren’t worth that much anymore because they’re inherently leveraged to oil prices. But despite the dramatic decline in oil prices, Exxon’s share price remains high.
The put options are interesting to me since implied volatility is low (20-30%+) and the company is overvalued. The options are barely more expensive than SPY puts (in terms of implied volatility), except that oil prices fell by half and America’s GDP did not.
A back of the envelope calculation puts Exxon’s private market value at <$129B versus a market cap of $359B.
From what I can tell, practically all stocks’ oil and gas reserves will have a Net Present Value of roughly 2-7 times the trailing twelve months’ cash flow. One relevant article is titled: “The Valuation of Oil and Gas Properties: Are They Really Worth 3x Cash Flow?“. For conventional wells, the 3X rule of thumb should come fairly close to the NPV in most cases.
I use this shortcut to get a quick sense of whether or not an E&P is massively overvalued. Currently I only short E&Ps and am not seeing any undervalued E&Ps even though these stocks have fallen a lot.
Since January 2015, I’ve been using a research platform called Sentieo (website). The main attraction of Sentieo is “Document Search”, a tool that searches through EDGAR filings, investor presentations, and conference call transcripts at the same time. It allows me to find key pieces of information that I otherwise would not find.
For short selling, Sentieo is incredibly useful since almost all of my short selling involves tracking down scumbags. Much of my work is spent searching through SEC filings for names of people, company names, and addresses.
Kinder Morgan does have some problems:
- Under its new CEO, Kinder Morgan has been stretching its numbers slightly.
- The big drop in oil prices will hurt the CO2 business.
- The big drop in commodity prices will lower infrastructure demand in the short term.
However, I think that the 60%+ drop in the share price YTD is a little overdone. Kinder Morgan’s problems don’t seem that bad compared to other companies.
In the past, Arthur Berman and his colleague Lynn Pittinger wrote about shale reserve estimates at The Oil Drum. The 2011 post “U.S. Shale Gas: Less Abundance, Higher Cost” pointed out potential pitfalls from using analogy wells to determine decline curves.
Type curves that are commonly used to support strong hyperbolic flattening are misleading because they incorporate survivorship bias and rate increases from re-stimulations that require additional capital investment.
Here are some ways to do it:
- Generally, a number of estimation methods are allowed: decline curve analysis (DCA), analogy, reservoir modelling, volumetric, pressure, or some combination of those methods, etc. You can cherry pick among those methods to choose the one that yields outlier numbers. The least time-consuming method is to use DCA, with Arps equations, with a high b-factor and with a low Dmin value.
- For DCA, you can use the analogy method for the underlying assumptions to “supplement” your wells’ production data with historical data that goes further back. Like #1, the optionality in methods allow you to cherry pick.
- You could use the analogy method on wells that have undergone significant capex/opex spending on enhanced oil recovery techniques. However, because you likely do not have access to those wells’ capex+opex figures, you could over/underestimate the economics of your own wells.
- In Canada, you are allowed to use commodity price forecasts that are well above the futures curve. (*Things were very different in the early 2000s.)
- You could book reserves for non-producing wells, e.g. wells that are shut-in and wells that were not completed due to poor economics. Theoretically, these wells could be NPV positive with higher commodity prices.
Kenneth Peak is the former CEO of Contango Oil & Gas (MCF) who passed away in 2013. Here is a collection of investor presentations that were taken down from the contango.com website:
Ken Peak MCF presentations (36MB Zip file on Dropbox)