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Right time. Right place.

101

That’s Tim Marchant’s take on his company’s encouraging shale oil play in southeastern Turkey.

Marchant, executive chairman of junior explorer Anatolia Energy (TSX:V– AEE), is a veteran oil executive with 30 years’ experience in global exploration, development and production.

In his last job, as Vice-President of BP International, he oversaw projects in nine Middle Eastern countries. Few Canadians have his extensive knowledge of the region’s potential for hydrocarbons.

And, in Marchant’s considered opinion, Turkey is hot.

With one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, Turkey is determined to become self-sufficient in oil and gas by 2023 and is drafting new laws to spur exploration.

Turkey currently imports a staggering 92 percent of its domestic oil needs and 98 percent of its natural gas. Average daily oil production of 44,000 barrels meets only eight percent of overall consumption needs and the cost of its energy imports is putting severe restraints on its economic ambitions.

“Our aim is to make Turkey one of the 10 largest economies in the world by 2023,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz recently told Bloomberg News. “Finding energy,” he said, would “enable Turkey to achieve its goal.”

The incentives of a stable political regime, rich resource prospects and generous terms are now luring some of the biggest international oil companies, including Shell, which has recently committed to a multi-million drilling program, and Exxon, which is reportedly close to signing a joint venture with TPAO (Turkish Petroleum Corporation) .

The Shell prospects are just a stone’s throw away from those of Anatolia Energy, which has a joint venture agreement with Calik Enerji, a highly experienced Turkish company with a proven exploration team.

It’s long been suspected that Turkey’s Anatolia Basin, composed largely of Silurian Dadas shale, is a potentially huge source of hydrocarbons. But it’s only within the past decade that new technology has made possible the efficient extraction of such resources.

Newly developed techniques of fracture stimulation, now in everyday use in North America, have “fundamentally changed” the nature of the game, says Marchant.

Anatolia, which has scoured the world for conventional and unconventional oil and gas assets, was among the first international explorer to renew an interest in Turkey. It has identified four major exploration trends, including the Silurian Dadas shale oil trend, over its licences and has identified 21 prospects.

The company’s focus at present is on its Bismil and Sinan Licences. Drilling at the Giremir-1 well, its initial exploration on the Sinan Licence, began in mid January.

Meanwhile, the company is gearing up for fracture stimulation tests of the Silurian Dadas Shale on the Bismil Licence. The tests are due to be carried out this year with the aim of flowing hydrocarbons from the shale.

Marchant anticipates strong results. Core samples of the shale taken last summer and analyzed by an independent third party back in Calgary “determined that this is a potentially very rich shale oil deposit,” he says.

The assessment, by resource evaluator Ryder Scott, assigned a P50 gross best estimate of 94 million barrels (47 MMBbl net) of recoverable oil in the company’s Dadas Shale prospective acreage in the Bismil and Sinan Licences — a substantial increase over a previous resource report.

Marchant says the estimates are “pretty conservative,” based on a potential recovery rate of only three-and-a-half percent, compared to a norm of between six and 10 percent in North America,

Bob Spring, Chief Executive Officer of Anatolia, says the Ryder Scott report “provides further validation of the significant Dadas Shale potential on our Turkish licences. We continue to be excited with the prospectivity of the Dadas Shale and we will remain focused on further advancing the development of this resource.”

As Anatolia prepares for its fracture stimulation tests, it has been hugely encouraged by the success of another company active in the Basin, TransAtlantic Petroleum Ltd.

Marchant says TransAtlantic has proven that the fracture stimulation technique works effectively in the Basin, stimulating the output of good quality light crude oil from both the overlying and underlying sandstone.

“What TransAtlantic has shown is that by drilling horizontally into the sandstone, and doing the same fracture stimulation test, they got better results than just doing a normal vertical well. The technique works on both formations.

“What this means is that the geologic concept that we were testing has been proved up,” says Marchant. “That’s very encouraging for Anatolia. It really feels like this whole play is coming together.”

Assuming that Anatolia’s own initial fracture stimulation tests are successful, Marchant says the next step is “full field development, which would involve drilling a number of horizontal wells — long horizontal sections — and then fracture stimulating those sections, the way things are now developed in western Canada, for example.”

He says Anatolia has sufficient funds to keep going through 2013, but that the long-term development of the shale prospects would require “a strategic decision a few years down the line. It obviously will require significant capital expenditures.

“We would look at a number of possibilities,” he says. “For the moment, we are very much focused on proving up what we believe to be a very large and significant resource for Turkey.”

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