In recent years, intense exploration activities in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico have contributed to significant increases in total oil reserves. At the end of 2011, the Gulf was assessed to hold approximately 2.65 billion barrels of oil and 4.85 Tcf of gas in proved non-producing reserves.
The region has the second highest crude oil reserves in the U.S. and the 10th highest natural gas reserves. Therefore, the Gulf of Mexico offers a significant opportunity to the players involved in the area. One small-cap operator in particular is very well positioned, growing substantially from its operations since its inception.
Founded as a Gulf Coast oil and gas company in 1985, PetroQuest Energy (NYSE: PQ ) owns an interesting portfolio of assets located on the Gulf Coast and offshore Gulf of Mexico. The producer more than doubled its gas reserves from 1985 to 2002, reaching 69 Bcfe. Since then, PetroQuest has increased these reserves exponentially, by more than 230% to 228 Bcfe.
At year-end 2012, the company estimated its Gulf of Mexico assets to hold about 12 Bcfe in proved reserves, which represents 5.3% of its total reserves. Furthermore, the company managed to grow its cash flow considerably with its Gulf Coast assets, from $94.4 million in 2007 to $305.6 million last year. PetroQuest is undeniably growing nicely.
Another company very active in the Gulf of Mexico is Noble Energy (NYSE: NBL ) , which owns approximately 314,000 net acres in the area, including eight fields that produced about 18 Mboe/d last year and totaled about 23 Mmboe of total proved reserves, as of December 2012.
Additionally, Noble discovered two important fields in the region, Gunflint and Big Bend. Gunflint's drilling appraisal is currently in progress to further determine the reservoir's potential. However, the reservoir could potentially hold up to 500 Mmboe. Regarding Big Bend, the property includes two high-quality Miocene reservoirs, assessed to hold approximately 40 Mmboe in gross unrisked mean resources. Gunflint's first production is expected for mid-2016 and Big Bend, for late 2015. Noble has total reserves of about 1.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent and assets totaling over $17 billion at year-end 2012.
My last pick is a renowned oil and gas company with worldwide assets. Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC ) owns approximately 3 million gross acres in the Gulf of Mexico, including the discovery of more than 30 oil and gas fields. Several high-quality assets make it the largest independent deepwater producer in the region.
Anadarko has eight operated floating facilities such as the Caesar/Tonga Mega project, which achieved first oil in March 2012. Notably, the company is developing a few projects in the region as well. As a matter of fact, the Lucius field in the Keathley Canyon area is well under way with first oil expected in 2014. Lucius consist of a world-class reservoir quality that was assessed to contain more than 300 Mmboe, and its production was estimated at about 80,000 Bbls/d of oil.
Anadarko is also developing its Heidelberg field in the Green Canyon area. Heidelberg has been assessed to hold between 200-400 Mmboe and would have a production capacity of 80,000 Bbls/d. First oil is anticipated for 2016. Finally, following the discovery of the Shenandoah Basin, the producer recently announced that the results of Shenandoah-2 appraisal well revealed more than 1,000 net feet of oil pay in multiple-aged reservoirs. According to Anadarko, the Shenandoah Basin has the potential to become the most prolific new basin in the entire deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
Whether you are looking to add PetroQuest into your portfolio for its great growth potential or would prefer to play it safe with more seasoned producers such as Noble or Anadarko, the Gulf of Mexico represents an excellent opportunity to get involved in a proven region that provides tremendous production. As we have seen earlier, the area's reserves are continuously replaced with new oil and gas discoveries, making the Gulf of Mexico one of the most prolific regions on the planet.
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