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Oil and gas junior companies: What's their end game?

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James Stafford: Junior oil companies have been storming the scene with some bold investments in tricky frontier areas. Where do you see this going and what will the next phase for the juniors be? Where will the action be, in conventional or unconventional plays?

Chris Cooper: I am a big believer in the conventional plays. I find that the non-conventional plays are turning into more of a game for the intermediate-size companies primarily as a result of the capital that is required to exploit the resources. Horizontal wells with multi-stage fracturing is an expensive game. I find that the conventional plays expose juniors to a less risky scenario with higher returns on investment and longer-term production more often than not.

Given the current state of the capital markets and the scarcity of funding, I think the smaller juniors will continue to play in the conventional arena.

James Stafford: What’s the ideal partner for a junior company, and what can make or break it for a junior?

Chris Cooper: As far as make or breaking a junior, I believe you need to minimize the company’s risk by drilling wells that are going to give you good internal rates of return and steady production; a good mix of development and exploration wells. It is also very good to have a good operator that is responsible in keeping a control on costs. 

James Stafford: What separates the good management teams from the mediocre in the Canadian junior oilpatch?

Chris Cooper: Management teams that have built and sold companies in the past have a responsible, methodical approach to how they run their businesses. More often than not, these teams do not try to re-invent themselves by drilling wells and formations that they have not done in the past. They continue to focus on what they know best, whether it be drilling in the Peace River Arch, chasing Leduc wells, or focusing on cardium wells. They often do not stray from their formulas and that is why they are good teams.

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