Energy & Commodities

The Real Reason Behind Oil Price Rises

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Posted by James Stafford via OilPrice.com

on Friday, 31 August 2012 16:31

Nowadays the energy picture is confusing at best as the more information we are shown the more blurred our vision seems to become. Mixed messages, poor reporting and a media hungry to sensationalize anything it thinks can grab a headline have led to many wondering what the true energy situation is. We hear numerous reports on how the shale revolution will transform the energy sector, why alternatives are just around the corner, why advances in oilfield extraction techniques and new finds will help to lower oil prices. Yet no sooner have we read these rosy reports than we are bombarded with negative news on the Middle East, on why alternatives will never compete, on peak oil and declining oil production.

So where do we really stand? 

In the interview, James discusses:

•    Why we shouldn’t get too excited with the shale revolution
•    The “Real” cause of high oil prices
•    The incredible opportunity presented by natural gas
•    Why long term oil prices will creep upwards
•    The geopolitical hotspots that could cause an oil price spike
•    Why sanctions could cause Iran to lash out
•    Why speculators and oil companies are not to blame for high oil prices.
•    Changes we can expect to see under a Romney Administration
•    Why Short term oil price forecasts are worthless
•    Peak oil & Daniel Yergin

...read the interview HERE 

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Energy & Commodities

It's Game On for Rare Earths in Greenland

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Posted by Rick Mills via The Critical Metals Report

on Tuesday, 28 August 2012 10:49

Far from icebound, Greenland is wealthy in rare earth elements, precious metals and oil. Already, says Aheadoftheherd.com owner Rick Mills, companies are beginning to outline major discoveries at just pennies a share. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Read more in this exclusive interview with The Critical Metals Report.

The Critical Metals Report: Let's start by talking about growth in developing nations, where populations are starting to demand the good things in life that we in the developed world have long enjoyed. That means continued growth in the commodity markets, specifically in mining. What are the implications of that?

Rick Mills: Easy and cheap access to basic materials like food, fiber, energy and minerals has driven recent growth in global prosperity. Throughout history, supply shortages in these materials have led to prices high enough to support further increases in production. We have always counted on supply eventually exceeding demand and forcing prices to drop.

Now, we are seeing a paradigm shift. Scarcity, jurisdictional risk and energy costs may result in declining production. Remember, margins, not price, motivate investment. As the cost of production increases, margins might not be sustainable.

TCMR: Is this specific to metals or other materials?

RM: I am talking about everything: food, fiber, energy and minerals. As far as metals are concerned, we have already picked most of the low-hanging fruit; now we have to go to more remote locations. We have to go to countries that are a little bit sketchy: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia or South Africa, which seems to be imploding.

For 10 years now, supply has struggled to keep pace with demand. The supply of metals is finite and subject to compounding demand from developing nations. Discovery and development are increasingly challenging and expensive. Average ore grades for most minerals are in decline, yet their production has increased dramatically.

The most important metals, copper for example, are suffering from declining ore quality and rising extraction costs. Eventually, the quantity of resources used in the extraction process will be 100% of what is produced. At existing mines, costs are increasing while production rates are stagnant or in decline. And the rate of discovery is not keeping pace with the rate of depletion; we are not replacing the reserves we are using.

TCMR: That would seem to increase the value of some of the near-term production stories that have defined ounces. Do you see a general increase in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the metals industry?

RM: I think that will have to happen. When was the last time you heard of a major making a discovery? The majors' business is to produce, whereas the juniors' place on the food chain is to explore, find and develop to a given point.

As reserves get more difficult to replace, juniors with deposits will become more valuable. The only way for a major mining company to replace its reserves and grow its resources is M&A. And, because there are very few mid-tier companies left, the majors will have to dip into the junior pool.

TCMR: You pay close attention to areas of the world now being explored. Do you have any ideas for investors, particularly in terms of lesser-known jurisdictions?

RM: Greenland is one place that will be increasingly on investors' radar screens. It is vastly underexplored and yet, it has some of the best potential for mineral discoveries that I have ever seen. Greenland is the largest island in the world; it has 5,800 square kilometers (sq km) of coastline. And yes, about 84% of Greenland is icecap up to 3 km thick. But the ice-free area surrounding the icecap is up to 300 km wide; roughly 400,010 sq km. Compare that to the size of Germany, which is slightly less at 357,000 sq km. That is where the prospective mineral discovery areas are. Most companies are working on the southwest coast.

Travel by sea is possible throughout the year from Nanortalik, in the south, to Sisimiut in the northwest, where the ports have a year-round shipping season.

The Earth's "cryosphere"—its frozen places—are melting. And there's no place on Earth that's changing faster than Greenland. The World Meteorological Organization reported that December 2011 was much warmer than usual, with rainfall instead of snow recorded for the first time in Kuujjuaq. NASA recently reported that ice all across the vast glacial interior of the world's largest island was melting.

Greenland is no more rugged than Canada's north. When you consider that the southwest coast is ice-free year round, shipping by sea would be cheaper than roads or exporting out of Canada's north.

TCMR: Why is it so prospective from a mineral exploration standpoint?

RM: Because Greenland is geologically part of North America, its geology is continuous with that of Canada and Northern Europe. It has cratons, which gives you the potential for diamonds, gold and rare earths. There's a Paleoproterozoic mobile belt, which gives you the potential for base metals, platinum group metals (PGMs), gold and tantalum. The Skaergaard intrusion, a lower territory intrusive complex, is tremendously important in terms of gold and PGM potential. Greenland also has lower Paleozoic sediments, which have the potential for other base metals. Carboniferous cretaceous settlements have the potential for coal.

Its offshore geology is highly prospective for petroleum. In 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the East Greenland Rift Basins Province could hold more than 31 billion barrels oil, gas and natural gas liquids. It also estimated that the waters off Greenland's west coast could contain the equivalent of 42% of Saudi Arabia's oil reserves.

TCMR: What about permitting and ease of development? Do the Greenlanders welcome this type of activity?

RM: Greenland has had self-rule since June 2009, including control over its minerals and petroleum. It is a politically stable democracy, open to foreign investments and mining. Right now, fishing and grants from Denmark are its major sources of revenue. Greenland wants to cement its financial independence from Denmark and sees mineral mining and oil and gas production as good sectors to achieve this. The permitting process takes a very commonsense approach. Greenlanders want to get mines going, to have people working and to get the revenue generated by operating mines.

Greenland's Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) is the nation's authoritative body for all administration related to mineral resources. It is a one-stop shop for anyone who wants a license. The BMP has the regulatory authority to review, evaluate and approve all licenses and to facilitate the public hearing process.

TCMR: So there are no hoops to jump through for local, provincial or national governments?

RM: That's right, and the BMP is aggressive when it comes to marketing Greenland's geologic potential. For example, the BMP designed and executed its own resource awareness marketing strategy focused on Australia and Canada, the two biggest mining countries in the world.

TCMR: What companies are operating there?

RM: Hudson Resources Inc. (HUD:TSX.V) controls 100% of the Sarfartoq carbonatite complex in west Greenland. This is one of the world's largest carbonatite complexes, approximately 13 by 8 km. The minerals of economic interest include pyrochlore, a niobium and tantalum oxide. In the core of the complex there are high uranium levels corresponding with exceptionally high concentrations of niobium and tantalum. The Sarfartoq project has produced some of the highest-known niobium intercepts. Uranium is directly associated with the niobium in the pyrochlore and is an effective prospecting tool used to identify other pyrochlore occurrences on the project.

Greenland currently has a moratorium on uranium mining. Hudson is sitting back and letting Greenlanders decide whether they want uranium mining or not. Instead, it is concentrating on the rare earth elements (REEs). There seem to be an awful lot of them with extremely high grades.

TCMR: Right now, it seems that the heavy rare earth elements (HREEs) are the most sought after. Does Hudson have a deposit with any of the HREEs?

RM: It has a deposit of what is arguably the most important REE, neodymium. Neodymium is the key to making REE magnets, those superior, high-strength permanent magnets used for energy-related applications. For example, wind turbines require 1,000 kilograms of neodymium for each megawatt of electricity they generate. The shift away from electromagnetic systems toward a permanent magnetic-based, direct-drive system in hybrid cars is increasing demand for neodymium. It always seems to be in short supply in the global marketplace, so prices have held up fairly well.

Hudson collected a five-ton, bulk metallurgical sample from its main zone, the ST1. It graded 2.5% total rare earth oxides (REOs). The neodymium oxide averaged 20% of total REO. That is a phenomenal number, and it bodes well for the extraction of neodymium.

TCMR: Neodymium is on the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) list of most critical rare earth metals.

RM: Five REEs—dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium and ytterbium—are considered to be the most critical of the elements in the DOE's Critical Metals Strategy report issued in December 2011.

In a REE deposit, the distribution of the individual REOs as a percentage of the total REOs is very important. You want to be sure that you can pull the metal that is the most in demand and extract it at the most advantageous cost.

The high-grade rare earth oxides on the Sarfartoq project are associated with low levels of thorium. As a result, the thorium radiometric signature is an effective prospecting tool for identifying additional REE occurrences.

Hudson is still defining the deposit, doing infill drilling and working on the metallurgy side, but also continues exploring in and around the project area.

TCMR: Does it have a preliminary economic assessment (PEA)?

RM: Its PEA shows a net present value of $616 million (M) and an internal rate of return of 31.2% with a 2.7-year payback period. The study was based solely on the company's NI 43-101, Inferred resource of 14.1 million tons (Mt) at 1.5% total rare earth oxides (TREOs).

It put another 8,000 meters (m) of drilling into it so far this year. It is going to enter 2013 with $7M in the treasury.

There is a lot of news coming from Hudson. It has potential not just in its neodymium project, but all of its claims in the whole project area are highly prospective. There is blue-sky discovery potential with Hudson.

TCMR: Since Greenland shares some of its geology with northern Canada, what other minerals does it host?

RM: North American Nickel Inc. (NAN:TSX.V) is working on what could be a whole nickel camp up in Greenland. Its Maniitsoq property is a district-scale project 4,800 sq km in size. Its mineral exploration license covers numerous high-grade nickel-copper-sulphide occurrences associated with norite and other mafic-ultramafic intrusions. It is part of a belt more than 70km long near Greenland's southwest coast. We know there is nickel there because we have historical results. However, I look at it as a new discovery, one that could actually put Greenland on the map.

If investors buy North American Nickel at $0.20, they are getting what is a shot at a district-size play, owned 100% by North American Nickel. For sheer size, plays like this do not come along often. I see this as a pure discovery story. It does not matter whether it is nickel or another metal. A discovery of this size and potential richness, in a politically stable, mining-friendly country, will be rewarded enormously. Discovery plays get rewarded, no matter what the market is.

TCMR: Any final thoughts, Rick?

RM: Sally, all of the juniors we have talked about in this and previous interviews have a deposit and are working their way down the development path. Sooner or later, one of the majors will have to look at these juniors as opportunities to replace their reserves and grow their resources. That will happen not because the majors want to, but because they need to.

Since my last interview with The Gold Report, a couple of the companies mentioned have done very well for their investors. I fully expect both companies mentioned here to do as well.

TCMR: Rick, thank you for your time and insights.

Richard (Rick) Mills is the founder, owner and president of Northern Venture Group, which ownsAheadoftheherd.com, as well as publisher, editor and host of the website. Focusing on the junior resource sector, Mills has had articles appearing on more than 400 different publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Safe Haven, The Market Oracle, USA Today, National Post, Stockhouse, LewRockwell, Pinnacle Digest, Uranium Miner, Beforeitsnews.com, Seeking Alpha, Montreal Gazette, Casey Research, 24hgold, Vancouver Sun, CBS News, Silver Bear Cafe, Infomine, Huffington Post, Mineweb, 321Gold, Kitco, Gold-Eagle, The Gold/Energy Reports, Calgary Herald, Resource Investor, Mining.com, Forbes, FN Arena, UraniumSeek, Financial Sense, GoldSeek, Dallas News, VantageWire andResource Clips

Want to read more exclusive Critical Metals Report interviews like this? Sign up for our free e-newsletter, and you'll learn when new articles have been published. To see a list of recent interviews with industry analysts and commentators, visit our Exclusive Interviews page.



Energy & Commodities

Why Uranium Prices Will Spike in 2013

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Posted by David Sadowski via Raymond James

on Friday, 24 August 2012 07:29

Analyst David Sadowski of Raymond James sees a lot on the horizon for uranium: a supply shortfall, escalating Asian demand and seasonality, to name just a few. As a former geologist-turned sellside analyst, Sadowski's conviction in uranium's bullish future is rock solid, and he urges investors to get exposure now, as prices in this sector can climb quickly once they're set in motion. In this exclusive interview withThe Energy Report, Sadowski shares his favorite names that are set to deliver megawatt-size returns to investors.


The Energy Report: David, how does your background as a geologist help you to see value and growth potential in mining companies?

David Sadowski: Defining ounces or pounds is not an easy business. If it was, there would certainly be far more economic deposits out there and metal prices would be a lot lower. Luck is involved, but most companies use systematic evaluations like geological surveys, drilling and other data to take a lot of the guesswork out of finding the next discovery. The ability to interpret these data is equally important, and it allows an analyst to make an independent determination on the growth potential of a project rather than just relying on what management is saying. In this way, I feel like having an understanding of how economic ore deposits form is essential to developing a meaningful forward-looking opinion, particularly on early-stage prospects. In my view that's one of the most important tools for the successful analyst.

TER: You're also clearly comfortable speaking with engineers and geologists at these companies.

DS: Yes, quite right. That's a very important element to my role. You have to be able to speak the same language and understand what they're doing on the ground, and that helps the analyst determine whether or not the company is headed in the right direction. It's a key skill to have.

TER: I was also very curious about your transition to finance as a sellside analyst. You once had a responsibility to the companies for which you worked, but now your stakeholders are institutional and retail investors. What mental shifts did you have to make?

DS: As an exploration geologist, one is really focused on the rocks, sometimes even at the microscopic level, and that's a much different scope of focus than that of a mining analyst. The financial and operational outlook for the company and its share price must always be on the analyst's mind, and we're not looking at companies in isolation, as a geologist might do. If you're in the business of projecting where the commodity price is going, as I am for uranium, the scope of analysis is global and extends from government policy right down to whether we think a specific ore zone will be amenable to heap leach, for example. As you mentioned, first and foremost I look out for the interest of investors rather than the mining companies, and this responsibility demands even higher levels of objectivity, precision and rigor. It's a constant challenge and that makes it an exciting and fulfilling role.

TER: Speaking of forecasts, uranium has dipped below the $50/lb level. I'm not sure, but I think these round numbers represent psychological support and resistance levels. What minimum price level must be sustained for small or near-term producers to maintain adequate margins?

DS: Well, if we look at existing operations, the majority of them would be losing money by selling their material at $40/lb. But there are a few exceptions, some of which are quite large producers, likeCameco Corp.'s (CCO:TSX; CCJ:NYSE) McArthur River or BHP Billiton Ltd.'s (BHP:NYSE; BHPLF:OTCPK) Olympic Dam. By our estimates, the only two potential projects that are likely to work in the $40/lb range of average realized price would likely be Cigar Lake and the expansion at Olympic Dam, but these are definitely major outliers. Cigar Lake is the second-highest grading deposit in the world, and it's located in an excellent jurisdiction in northern Saskatchewan with significant existing infrastructure nearby. Meanwhile, Olympic Dam only works at that price because its uranium production is a byproduct of much more significant gold and copper output. When we look at the majority of additional projects needed to fill the looming supply gap, we think they need prices north of $70/lb to go forward. This is one of the key reasons why we feel the sub-$50/lb prices are unsustainable.

TER: What is your case for rising demand for uranium?

DS: We're definitely bullish on the outlook for uranium. Although prices have softened in recent months, we have a very strong conviction that this trend is soon to reverse and investors should be exposed to uranium today. Beyond the high incentive prices for new supply that we just touched on, there are three primary reasons for our view. The first one is compelling supply/demand fundamentals. Next, there is the seasonality of uranium prices. And, most importantly, there are industry catalysts. Shall we take a look at each one?

TER: Please, go right ahead.

DS: After the Fukushima Daiichi accident last year, the nuclear industry has done some soul searching and decided to take a slower, more cautious pace in the construction of new reactors globally. But what many people don't realize is that according to World Nuclear Association (WNA) data, there are nine more reactors in the planned and proposed category today than there were before the accident. Demand for nuclear power has remained resilient with ramping electricity requirements around the world, volatility in fossil fuel prices, energy supply security concerns and a global preference for carbon-neutral sources. The majority of this demand is from Asia. In fact, we estimate 82% of new capacity through 2020 will be built in only four countries—China, India, Russia and South Korea. Part of the reason for that is that state-owned utilities don't face the same problems associated with other regions, like high upfront construction costs, widespread antinuclear public sentiment and lengthy regulatory timelines. So, this continued growth should support commensurate levels of demand for uranium for decades to come.

All of this demand begs the question, where is this uranium going to come from? Well, we don't think supply is going to be able to keep up. Due to recent soft prices, many major projects have been delayed or shelved, like BHP's Olympic Dam expansion, which I mentioned earlier, and Cameco's Kintyre project,AREVA's (AREVA:EPA) Trekkopje project and the stage 4 expansion at Paladin Energy Ltd.'s (PDN:TSX; PDN:ASX) Langer Heinrich mine. Even the world's largest producer, Kazakhstan, may slow its pace of production growth. And, further complicating this issue is dwindling secondary supplies, like surplus government stockpiles, which in recent years have contributed 50 million pounds (Mlb)/year. But, that number is expected to halve over the next few years. We are projecting a three-year supply shortfall starting in 2014, and that certainly paints a very rosy supply/demand picture for investors.

Seasonality also favors uranium exposure today. Over the last 10 years, uranium spot prices have dropped on average $4/lb during the third quarter (Q3) but have rebounded by at least that amount in Q4, which is the strongest quarter of the year. This is often correlated with the annual WNA symposium, where many market participants sit down and hammer out new supply agreements. This year's conference is going to be held September 12–14 in London.

Last but not least, there are several near-term catalysts that we think will start the price upswing. In Japan, all but two reactors are now offline, and there's significant uncertainty and government debate about how many will eventually restart. As the world's third-largest nuclear fleet, it has obvious implications for future uranium demand. For a variety of economic, political and environmental reasons, we think Japan will restart most of its reactors by 2017 with the first batch of reactors likely starting early in 2013. As more units start to return to service, it will provide additional confidence that the nuclear utilities in Japan are unlikely to dump their inventories into the market, which should support prices in the near-term.

Meanwhile in China, the government paused construction approvals for new reactors immediately after last year's Fukushima accident. But with these safety reviews now successfully completed, they're poised to start re-permitting new projects, and this should undoubtedly support increased uranium contracting. Let's not forget that China will be far-and-away the largest source of nuclear demand growth for the foreseeable future. We expect a six-fold increase in installed nuclear capacity by the end of this decade.

The final major catalyst is the expiry of the Russian Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) agreement to down-blend material from nuclear warheads into reactor fuel. This agreement has supplied the Western World for two decades but is due to conclude at the end of 2013. The Russians have repeatedly stated they're not interested in extending this agreement, and we expect this to remove about 24 Mlbs/year or 13% from the global supply. That's equivalent to shutting down the world's largest mine, McArthur River, as well as all six operating mines in the U.S. That's a massive impact. So, for these reasons we think prices are poised to turn here. We forecast prices to average above $60/lb in 2013 and north of $70/lb in 2014 and 2015 before settling to $70/lb in the long-term.

TER: These catalysts are spread out over the next 18 months, which is not a long time. Stock markets generally look ahead. So, why are prices lagging as they are?

DS: That's a good question. I think what we're seeing is a significant amount of uncertainty in the marketplace surrounding the availability of some material and who is going to be a near-term buyer. The purchasing side is largely comprised of nuclear utilities, which are usually very conservative and cautious. Based on our experience, they tend not to make rash moves and prefer to wait until all information is available before jumping into new sales contracts. For instance, they would rather have certainty on whether utilities in Japan and Germany are going to be selling any of their inventories before they start buying. This has led to very low volumes in recent months.

However, we're already starting to see contracting activity pick up with major long-term deals signed by Paladin and one with the United Arab Emirates, both this month. And the WNA meetings are now only a few weeks away. This mounting activity could be just what the market needs for the metal price to shift to higher and more sustainable levels. And recent history shows that when the price moves, it can move really quickly as we saw in 2007, mid-2009 and late-2010 when the weekly uranium spot price jumped in increments of $5–10/lb.

TER: Could these current low prices force juniors to sell themselves to the larger companies, the producers?

DS: Well, we certainly expect further consolidation in the space. This industry is pretty much divided into the haves and have-nots. On one side we have state-owned utilities in countries like China and Korea, which essentially have zero cost of capital and the stated intention to build their exposure to uranium production. We also have large producers, like Cameco and Uranium One Inc. (UUU:TSX), that are cashed up and looking to grow. But, meanwhile many have-not companies have been under significant pressure in this current low uranium price environment with weak balance sheets and share prices. They could be looking to either sell assets or be taken over completely. Last year we saw Hathor get acquired by Rio Tinto Plc (RIO:NYSE; RIO:ASX; RIO:LSE; RTPPF:OTCPK). Extract Resources was bought by the Chinese nuclear utility, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp. (CGNPC). And, Mantra Resources was just purchased by Russia's ARMZ Uranium Holding Co. These major deals could just be the start of another major trend of M&A in our view.

TER: I'm surprised that those acquisitions you just mentioned haven't been a bullish signal to the market.

DS: We definitely think that they're a bullish signal. It means that the larger companies are willing to lay out capital and put it at risk to build their future pipelines, which is a sign to us that they have confidence in where the uranium price is going and that they want to have higher production in the future to take advantage of those higher prices.

TER: David, everything you have said sounds to me like you believe that we are now in a legitimate value market in uranium equities. Is that the way you feel?

DS: Yes, definitely.

TER: What are your best ideas that you're telling investors about?

DS: We prefer higher-quality, lower-risk names with minimal capital requirements. One of those is Cameco. It's the world's largest publicly listed uranium producer. Its market cap is over $8 billion (B). So that makes it very acceptable for many investors who have certain constraints and mandates to get exposure to the uranium space. It's historically been the go-to name in the space. This company features strong production growth and a very low production cost. And it's got a critical milestone coming up with the startup of its massive 50%-owned Cigar Lake project, which is due to come on-stream in late 2013. When fully ramped up, Cigar Lake is going to be the second-largest mine in the world. Cameco also has a very healthy balance sheet with access to about $4B in capital, and we wouldn't be surprised if it puts that money to work by making an acquisition in the next 6–12 months.

TER: You have a $28 target price on Cameco, which does not represent huge upside gain from current levels. Is this what you think of as a safer, more conservative play?

DS: Yes, certainly. It reduces your risk via diversification into the other parts of the fuel cycle, such as conversion, refining and electricity generation, while you're still getting some serious exposure to the uranium space. Even if we don't project a really big return to our target, we think it's a safe play and we recommend it. There's less volatility in this one.

TER: What's your next idea?

DS: The next one in terms of lower-risk names we'd recommend is Uranium Participation Corp. (U:TSX). Our target is $8, but we've got a Strong Buy on it because we think this is a great low-risk way to get into the space. It's the world's only physical uranium fund, and it's designed to give investors pure-play exposure to the uranium price without any of the associated exploration, development or mining risks. The fund usually trades at slight premium to its net asset value (NAV), but currently it's about 13% below NAV. We think it's trading at a great entry point right now. Its current share price implies a uranium price of about $44/lb. If you're like us and you think spot prices are unlikely to descend to those levels, then Uranium Participation offers good value today. If you're an investor looking for more leverage, it may not be the one for you. But, I think if you're going to buy a basket of equities this is one that you may want to include.

TER: What about investors who are willing to take on a bit more risk for greater returns?

DS: If you want more leveraged exposure to a potential spot-price rebound, we would consider a couple of other companies. The first one is Ur-Energy Inc. (URE:TSX; URG:NYSE.A), and we've got a $1.80 target and a Strong Buy rating on this one as well. It's got an excellent flagship project called Lost Creek in mining-friendly Wyoming. We see production starting up there in the second half of next year. The project's got low capital and operating costs and it's scalable as well. Despite a somewhat small 1 Mlb/yr mine plan, the design of the backend of the Lost Creek plant should accommodate about 2 Mlb/year of uranium. It should be able to incorporate other satellite deposits, such as those acquired from Uranium One earlier this year as well as from Areva last month. Ur-Energy is also a catalyst story. It's got only one final mine permit required before construction can start, and we have strong conviction that final approvals from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will come in by the end of September, particularly following release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) last week—a major milestone. Currently Ur-Energy's valuation is very attractive, trading at the lowest price/NAV (0.5x) of any of our covered equities, and we think receipt of that approval from the BLM could help close the gap towards developer valuations.

TER: Over the past four weeks it's up 34%. I'm guessing that the near-term expectation of this BLM permit is the reason for this stock's very high relative strength.

DS: I think so. I think we're trending towards that date, and it's become very important because this company has faced a little bit of difficulty over the last few years with some of its permitting timelines. It has missed a few targets, and that has really hurt the share price. And, yes, when this permit comes in we think it should be a great catalyst for the stock to re-rate towards developer valuations.

TER: Would you mention another name?

DS: Uranium One is another one of these stocks with a bit higher risk profile, but we think this risk is justified, and that is demonstrated by our higher target price. We are rating it Outperform with a $3.60 target. It's got an excellent suite of low-cost in situ leach mines in Kazakhstan. It's the world's fourth-largest producer, and it's also one of the fastest-growing producers out there as well. We modeled over 15 Mlb of production in 2015, up from only 10.7 Mlbs in 2011. Uranium One has the highest exposure to spot prices than any other company in our coverage universe, so it's a great way to play this space if you're a strong believer in uranium prices going upwards. Uranium One is 52% owned by ARMZ Uranium Holding Co., a strong partner, and that's allowed it to access the Russian ruble bond market, which has been a boon for the company. It's at a great entry point at current levels, with a 0.7x current price/NAV.

TER: David, Uranium One has a $2.3B market cap, and because of that there are a lot of mutual funds that could buy this stock. But it strikes me that its market value is a quarter the size of Cameco. Mutual funds could get some very significant upside from Uranium One.

DS: That's a really good point to make. There are very few universally investable uranium equities. And by that I mean that there are very few publicly listed uranium equities in Canada, for example, that exceed that $1B market-cap threshold. Cameco is the biggest one at over $8B in market cap, and then you've got Uranium One, and Paladin Energy. And, beyond that there are very few places that you can put your money if you're the type of investor that's got the specific size and liquidity constraints or mandates, like you said, as a mutual fund. Those are pretty much the top three go-to places if you want uranium exposure.

TER: Is there one more you could mention? You have a Market Perform rating on Denison Mines Corp. (DML:TSX; DNN:NYSE.A). I'm interested in hearing about it because the company is once again an explorer.

DS: Denison Mines has a great management group lead by Ron Hochstein, and it has a 60%-interest in an excellent exploration project called Wheeler River, which is one of the best discoveries that we've seen in about a decade, perhaps trailing only Hathor's Roughrider. It's also one of the highest-grading uranium deposits that has ever been discovered. We think that the project could nearly double its resources at depth, along strike and on regional targets, and so we model 70 Mlbs at 12% target resources at Wheeler River. Denison also has a 22.5% ownership of the state-of-the-art JEB mill, which is one of only four active conventional uranium mills in North America. It's unique in that it can process high-grade ores without having to downblend. That's a strong competitive advantage. For those reasons, we think Denison is a good takeout target. Cameco and Rio Tinto's faceoff for Hathor last year was probably their first battle in a larger war for the prime assets in the basin, and Denison has two of them. That said, we are cautious on the name today given limited visibility to production at its minority-held Canadian projects and in Mongolia and Zambia, as well as potential financing risk next year. We have a Market Perform rating and $1.80 target on the company.

TER: I have enjoyed meeting you very much, David.

DS: Thanks for having me George. It was a pleasure to speak with you as well.

David Sadowski has been a member of Raymond James' mining team since June 2008, and now covers the uranium and junior precious metal spaces as a research analyst. Prior to joining the firm, David worked as a geologist in Central and Northern B.C. with multiple Vancouver-based junior exploration companies, focused on base and precious metals. David holds a Bachelor of Science in Geological Sciences from the University of British Columbia.

Want to read more exclusive Energy Report interviews like this? Sign up for our free e-newsletter, and you'll learn when new articles have been published. To see a list of recent interviews with industry analysts and commentators, visit our Exclusive Interviews page.


1) George S. Mack of The Energy Report conducted this interview. He personally and/or his family own shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None.
2) The following companies mentioned in the interview are sponsors of The Energy Report: Ur-Energy Inc. Streetwise Reports does not accept stock in exchange for services. Interviews are edited for clarity.
3) David Sadowski: I personally and/or my family own shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I personally and/or my family is paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this story.


Energy & Commodities

No Peak Oil & 9 Companies Priced to Buy

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Posted by Stephen Tayler - The Energy Report

on Tuesday, 21 August 2012 15:54

Peak oil? "Baloney," says Stephen Taylor. However, significant price differentials make for a complicated global market. On that front, Taylor's message is simple: Watch the news to see where the wells are gushing, choose stocks with low operational costs and keep cash on hand for quick near-term profits. Learn which companies are priced to buy in Taylor's exclusive interview with The Energy Report.


he Energy Report: Let's start with a macro rundown. What's the Stephen Taylor take on oil and gas markets today?

Stephen Taylor: It's like A Tale of Two Cities. The gas that sells for $3 per thousand cubic feet ($3/mcf) in the Marcellus region would sell for $12/mcf in Europe or Japan, but nobody's found a quick and easy way to get it from one place to the other. A lot of new areas, like the Bakken in North Dakota, have surging production, but the infrastructure's taking time to get updated and adjusted. Big, interregional price differentials are a theme we'll keep seeing as long as we have these bottlenecks, but those will slowly abate over time. This means it's really going to be a stock picker's market, and a lot of the action will be location driven.

TER: So it's location, location, location with asset valuations.

ST: Absolutely. However, one thing we touched on back in my March interview is that the U.S. may see a reemergence of the petrochemical industry. Huntsman Corp. (HUN:NYSE) had just announced a big project at that time. More recently, Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDS.A:NYSE; RDS.B:NYSE)announced a major project north of Pittsburgh that will probably create 10,000 jobs and use a lot of that Marcellus gas. I think that's a trend that's going to continue, with industry jobs moving back to the U.S. to take advantage of some of this cheaper energy.

TER: What about developing natural gas vehicles? Are we any closer to T. Boone Pickens' vision of widespread consumer adoption of natural gas vehicles?

ST: I think Boone was met with some skepticism, initially. A lot of people just naturally distrust oilmen. But, he's a smart man and his plan makes a lot of sense. We're now starting to see more product offerings, such as vehicles with a natural gas option, like the new Honda Civic. And there are a lot more natural gas fueling stations around than people may realize. It continues to grow as a transportation fuel, and I think we'll find other uses for it. That emerging demand will keep the downside in natural gas prices not too far from where it is right now. Any surprises should be to the upside in the next two-to-three years.

TER: Will still more improved drilling technologies alter the natural gas fundamentals?

ST: New drilling technologies are beginning to lower the cost of some of these multi-frack wells. That will allow the drilling boom to continue here in the U.S. and in emerging plays around the world.

TER: At this rate, it doesn't seem like projections about peak oil have much resonance.

ST: Frankly I think peak oil is baloney, and you can quote me on that. The potential reserves, especially on the natural gas side, are just tremendous. I was just reading a report that even in a place like Argentina, shale gas reserves could be north of 700 trillion cubic feet. That could be another huge gas-producing region. There's plenty out there. I don't buy peak oil or gas.

TER: Oil prices are hanging in between $85–95/barrel (bbl). Do you see any significant moves higher in the near-term?

ST: Turmoil in the Middle East or perhaps an environmental issue like the BP spill could be a price driver. Meanwhile, governments around the world keep printing money, which will flow into hard assets. But disaster aside, I think we're stuck in a trading range between $75–95/bbl over the next 12–18 months. The easy money will support the price and the new supply in technology will cap the upside a little.

TER: Which companies are already seeing a change in their bottom lines through new drilling technologies?

ST: A name that I've mentioned in the past is New Zealand Energy Corp. (NZ:TSX.V; NZERF:OTCQX). We continue to be a big fan of that stock and the management team. The company just completed a financing in March at $3 a share. The company is now able to aggressively pursue its development plans. It recently announced a strategic acquisition of some gas gathering and production assets. John Proust, its chairman, is a really good strategic thinker and this acquisition makes a lot of sense. One of the technologies or process innovations that New Zealand is taking advantage of is the move to pad drilling, where you build one pad and keep the rig in place to drill two to four wells. It saves a lot of money. He and his team are sharp guys and management owns 30% of the stock. The stock has backed off into the $1.60 range. I think there's little downside from here and a lot of upside over the next couple of years as John and his team implement their plan.

It has a tremendous drilling pipeline with a couple million acres in onshore New Zealand. This recent acquisition brought an additional library of 3-D seismic over the main production fairway. It can drill as many wells as its checkbook allows. I think ultimately, New Zealand is a target for a larger international oil company to take out. New Zealand has pulled back and had a rough ride. But, I think now is a great time to be a buyer. We have been long-time holders of this company and have participated before the public offering and continue to like it. I think the 50% pullback since March is a gift.

I would also point out that the S&P/TSX Venture 30 Index is being reformulated and New Zealand Energy has been added to that index. That will be a good short-term catalyst for the stock.

TER: Are companies seeing better drilling success rates with new technologies?

ST: Absolutely. If you look over the last 20 years, the success rates on wells have moved up nicely. There can still be problems, such as we saw recently with McMoRan Exploration Co.'s (MMR:NYSE)Davy Jones No. 1 well. It's still a risky business—make no mistake about that. But the technology is helping us get oil from places that we couldn't have before. There continues to be a lot of excitement over the ultra-deep gas prospects in the Gulf, despite the hiccup McMoRan had with Davy Jones. Eventually, McMoRan will get its problems sorted out, and we continue to be very excited about that.

TER: What other stocks catch your eye?

ST: We also like a company that I've mentioned in the past, Saratoga Resources Inc. (SARA:NYSE.A). It recently completed a financing, which put a little pressure on the stock, but cashed up its treasury to continue doing some drilling. Its second quarter earnings release indicated that it is in the process of hedging a portion of its production, which I think is a very smart move and will be well-received by the market.

Another name that we like that is also being added to that index is Iona Energy Inc. (INA:TSX.V). It's a producer focused on the North Sea off the coast of Britain and has a very experienced management team that came out of Ithaca Energy Inc. (IAE:TSX). We like that name as well. We participated in Iona's last financing at $0.50 and believe that it's a good entry point here.

TER: Anyone else worth mentioning at this point?

ST: I would probably mention Bengal Energy Ltd. (BNG:TSX). It's focused on Australia and India. It has huge land holdings in the Cooper Basin in Australia. It's had some good success recently at drilling wells to prove up that resource. We expect that it will eventually become a target for a larger energy company.

TER: What have you done in your Taylor Fund to weather these market swings in the last couple of years?

ST: We are a multi-strategy fund with a broad investment mandate. While we have probably 35–40% of our fund in energy related investments and a similar amount in other resource investments, we've recently begun focusing on the financial sector with small and midsize community banks in the U.S. It's about as far away from energy as you can get, just to provide a little balance. This is probably a good entry point into that industry as well.

TER: What are you expecting for the energy markets over the balance of the year?

ST: This continues to be a stock picker's market with the location of the play and the application of technology being the big driver, along with mergers and acquisitions. I expect to continue seeing big oil and gas companies buy out smaller oil and gas companies. And if you can take the volatility, small is where you want to be.

TER: How would you suggest investors play the markets at this point?

ST: I think it's probably a good time to have a little bit more cash in reserve. There will be periods of volatility and company-specific events that could create some short-term buying opportunities and you want to make sure that you have a little dry powder to take advantage of those, as they may come along.

TER: Any other thoughts you might want to leave with us?

ST: One thing I haven't mentioned, and I think you'll continue to see is overseas buyers of energy-related assets. I just came back from a trip to China and had a meeting with some representatives from CITIC Group, the big Chinese investment fund. They continue to be very hungry for energy and resource-related investments around the world. They may bring some dry powder to the table too.

TER: Thank you, Stephen.

ST: Thanks for having me.

Stephen Taylor is chairman and CEO of Taylor Asset Management, a Chicago-based investment management firm focusing on small-cap domestic equities and emerging markets. He also serves as a portfolio manager for the Taylor International Fund, Ltd., a small-cap equity fund. In addition to emerging markets, Steve's area of expertise includes private equity, restructuring and turnaround situations and both small- and mid-cap companies. He has considerable experience in the natural resources and finance industries in Canada and China.

Want to read more exclusive Energy Report interviews like this? Sign up for our free e-newsletter, and you'll learn when new articles have been published. To see a list of recent interviews with industry analysts and commentators, visit our Exclusive Interviews page.


1) Zig Lambo of The Energy Report conducted this interview. He personally and/or his family own shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None.
2) The following companies mentioned in the interview are sponsors of The Energy Report: Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Saratoga Resources Inc. and New Zealand Energy Corp. Streetwise Reports does not accept stock in exchange for services. Interviews are edited for clarity.
3) Stephen Taylor: I personally and/or my family own shares of the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I personally and/or my family is paid by the following companies mentioned in this interview: None. I was not paid by Streetwise Reports for participating in this story.


Energy & Commodities

The Brutal Dethroning of Coal & The Coming Spike in Natural Gas

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Posted by Wolf Richter via The Testoserone Pit

on Friday, 17 August 2012 01:52

It’s been tough for natural gas drillers. The boom in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that gave access to enormous gas-rich shale formations around the nation led to record production. Prices crashed. Drilling activity collapsed: rig count, down 45% from last year, hit the lowest level since July 1999. Producers are writing down their natural gas assets by the billions of dollars. Some will get wiped out. The price of natural gas has been below production costs for years, and the damage is now huge [read.... Natural Gas: Where Endless Money Went to Die].

On the other side, power generators have switched from coal to natural gas—with devastating impact on king coal. Coal has long been the dominant fuel for power generation. But April 2012, for the first time in the history of EIA data, power generation from coal-fired and natural gas-fired plants reached parity, each contributing 32% to total electricity generation.

NatGas-Coal-fired-generation-2001 2012

The large fluctuations are a function, in part, of the seasonality of overall power demand. In April, demand was low due to mild spring weather. The price of natural gas dropped to a 10-year low, and power companies laughed all the way to the bank. In May, power production started to rise as air conditioners got cranked up—a trend that will hold for the summer.

But the graph shows something far more important: a narrowing of the gap between coal and gas-fired power generation. It’s not just the low price of natural gas that did it—but a new power generation technology and yes, the usual suspect, Congress.

Gas turbines are an old technology. Most of the energy is wasted as exhaust heat. They’re inefficient, compared to coal-fired steam turbines. But they have an advantage: they can be brought on line quickly to cover peak loads. So coal and gas have been used in parallel: coal to produce low-cost base power and gas to produce more expensive peak power during periods of high demand (daytime, summer).

Gas didn't pose a threat to king coal ... until the arrival in the 1990s of the natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) turbine: like the classic turbine, it drives a generator, but instead of blowing the “waste” heat out the exhaust, it uses the energy to generate steam that, as in a coal plant, drives a steam turbine that powers another generator. Like their old-fashioned brethren, NGCC plants can be brought on line quickly, but when used for base power, their efficiency can exceed 60%—much higher than that of a coal plant.

A game changer. With natural gas prices as low as they’ve been over the past years, operating costs for power generators have plunged. It doesn’t hurt that NGCC plants have lower capital costs than coal plants—$600 to $700 per kW versus $1,400 to $2,000 kW—relatively short construction times, and environmental benefits. The long-term shift to natural gas looks like this:

natural-gas coal-for-power-generation

(The data is annual, not monthly; so 2012, with data through April, isn’t comparable to the first graph.)

The gray areas in the graph indicate periods of extraordinary changes. Low oil prices in the 1960s caused and uptick in use of petroleum for power generation ... until the two oil shocks in the 1970s knocked it into a long decline towards the inconsequential.

The winner of the oil shocks was coal, producing at its peak in the late 1980s nearly 80% of all power: truly king coal. And it was Congress that did it! In 1978, in reaction to the oil price shocks, it passed the Powerplant and Industrial Fuels Act (PIFUA) that clamped down on the construction of oil and gas-fired plants and promoted the construction of coal plants. But by 1990, a new world had dawned: PIFUA was buried, natural gas markets were deregulated, and power generators were freer to substitute one fuel for another, based on economic considerations.

Just then, the efficient NGCC plants arrived on the scene! Result: a phenomenal ascent of natural gas in power generation, not only for peak power but also for base power, led by a construction boom of NGCC plants. Between 2000 and 2010, natural gas generating capacity jumped by 96%:


The loser was coal. An ugly slide that accelerated over the last few years. Higher natural gas prices—a certainty, given that they’re currently below production costs—will have some impact on the speed of the progression of natural gas. In the short term, power generators switch between fuels to take advantage of lower costs here and there. But as more gas-fired plants have come on line, and as the oldest, most inefficient coal plants are being retired, the shift to natural gas has become structural—pushing up demand inexorably.

Alas, the price of natural gas doesn’t flow like a tranquil river but has violent ups and downs with sporadic and vicious spikes. Read.... The Coming Spike In The Price Of Natural Gas.

And here is a harbinger of other things to come: California Sales Tax Revenues Nosedive By 33.5%, by hard-hitting Chriss Street.


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