The oil market is in turmoil. Indeed, both the major oil benchmarks, Brent and WTI, are currently trading at four-year lows as supply outpaces demand. Unfortunately, the whole oil industry is now under pressure as with oil trading below the key $100 per barrel level, many large deep-water projects are no longer commercially viable.
Small-cap oil explorersRockhopper Exploration(LSE: RKH),Falkland Oil and Gas(LSE: FOGL) andHurricane Energy(LSE: HUR) have not escaped the carnage. In particular, the oil minnows have seen their share prices fall 15%, 7% and 30% respectively over the past 30 days.
The question is, do these declines present an opportunity to buy, or should you stay away?
Theres no denying thatRockhopper Exploration has bright prospects. The company owns a share of the huge Sea Lion oil prospect in the Falkland Islands. The prospect is being developed by Rockhoppers partner,Premier Oil. Rockhoppers total volume of resource within theFalklands region is estimated to be 114 million barrels of oil and 277 billion cubic feet ofnaturalgas.
In addition to this huge prospect, Rockhopper also recently acquired small-cap peerMediterranean Oil & Gas for a relatively small sum, which expanded the companys asset base, diversifying away from theFalkland Islands.
Whats more, unlike many of the companys sector peers, Rockhopper has a hefty cash balance of $247m, or 151m as reported at the end of March this year. With a market capitalisation of only 228m, it would appear as if the market is significantly undervaluing Rockhoppers reserves. On this basis, the company looks to be an attractive investment at current levels.
Like Rockhopper, Falkland Oil and Gas is still in the exploration stage of its life, working with peer Noble Energy to explore for oil within theFalkland Islands. So far, progress has been mixed but Noble plans to recommence drilling again next year.
The company had previouslydeclared a separate project in the Falkland Islands, known as the Scotia well, to be non-commercial and this threw the exploration programme into doubt. However, new analysis of the region has given Noble and Falkland Oil & Gas hope that further projects will yield success. On this basis, Falkland Oil & Gas remains a speculative play.
Unlike Rockhopper and Falkland,Hurricane Energy is making solid progress developing its assetslocated within the UK Continental Shelf. Indeed, only last month the company reported thatoil production from its Lancaster field could be significantly ahead of initial expectations.
Specifically, management reported that production from the field could exceed 20,000 barrels of oil per day, while theappraisal test well only flowed at rates of up to 9,800 bbl/d.
With appraisal wells drilled and test production actually taking place, Hurricanes future is, to a certain extent, de-risked as the company has most of the building blocks in place to begin producing and selling oil on a commercial basis.
That being said, full commercial production is still some way off but the companys470m barrels of contingent resources is an attractive asset, especially consideringHurricanes current market capitalisation of only 172m.
Falkland Oil & Gas, Rockhopper and Hurricane all look attractive at current levels,although one thing to remember is, that the oil business can make you rich but it can also make you poor. That’s why the best investors build a portfolio with a combination of both risky oil companies and reliable dividend paying stocks, reducing risk and allowing you to sleep soundly at night.
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Rupert Hargreaves has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don’t all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.