That is something of a surprise given the management team in place, which boasts a strong track record, plus the fact that the company has been around since 2008.
Since then, it has accumulated quite a collection of assets, which has grown significantly through 2012, and with some proven oil on the books, as well as some existing gas production.
The company's total proved plus probable (2P) oil and gas reserves were recently hiked by independent analysts from 31.7 million barrels of oil equivalent to 36.0 million barrels of oil equivalent. Iona’s North Sea assets include the Kells oilfield (formerly Staffa), where an independent assessment put proven plus probable (2P) reserves at 6.6 million barrels of oil equivalent.
This is a re-development project of a proven oil discovery in the North Viking Graben area of the UK North Sea.The Kells asset comes through Iona’s 100 per cent interest in Block 3/8d, in which it has also acquired an additional discovery known as Ossian to the southwest, and a Brent-level exploration prospect called Fingal to the west.
But work on Kells has been overtaken by another, larger oil discovery, Orlando, within Block 3/3b, which provides the current focus of attention. Recently, proved plus probable reserves estimates for this field were increased by 39 per cent to 15.37 million barrels.
It’s a high impact project for Iona, with a re-engineered field development plan estimating peak flow rates in excess of 14,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd); by comparison, Kells is forecast to deliver 5,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).
Making this project work would therefore be transformational on the company, turning it into a notable North Sea oil producer, and clearly raising its profile on this side of the pond.
But this will take time and money, of course.As at the end of June 2012, Iona had no short or long-term debt obligations, though the company is in the latter stages of closing a US$130 million lending facility.It also reported US$94 million in cash at the bank in its summer update.
Farming down some of its equity is also on the cards, after it bought out its former partners, operator MPX and Sorgenia, back in July.The company has entered into talks with potential partners to share in the development of both the Orlando and Kells assets.
Another thing Iona has in its favour is a dollop of production, via the Trent & Tyne gas project, in which it holds a 20 per cent stake.
This also includes a share of the ETS gas export pipeline system which transports gas from four fields, including Trent & Tyne, to Bacton on the UK mainland.Trent & Tyne net production to Iona for the six months ended June 30, 2012 was 2.3 MMscf/d, while the average realised gas price was US$8.86/mcf.
Elsewhere, the company has accumulated various other projects, including the West Wick oil discovery on UK Block 13/21a, and was awarded two offshore exploration blocks (112/13 & 14) in 2010, within the East Irish Sea.
The only non-UK asset the company currently holds is Alaska, where it has one of 38 blocks over a large previously drilled gas discovery, known as Burger; work here though has lagged behind activity in the UK.It means that investors will be watching Iona Energy’s next step closely.
The board’s strategy is all about rapid acquisition of assets, in low risk locations, and then fast tracking of development work.Thus far, it has delivered on the first part of this game plan, now it needs to show that it can meet the next part of the bargain.And this means pushing through development work and achieving first oil production.
Management expect to receive final project approval from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change for the Orlando development early in the first quarter of 2013.
If it can line up all the ducks, in terms of partners and financing, ahead of this date, then it could be a really exciting year ahead for this emerging Canadian junior.