That said, the imminent Charlie-1 well represents its best opportunity to date.
Estimated at 1.6bn barrels ‘gross’, it has the potential to be a very substantial project, though there’s more to Charlie than just scale.
The presence of London-listed mid-tier producer Premier Oil PLC (LON:PMO) adds a rare level of confidence and credibility to what has until this point has essentially been a frontier style story for 88 Energy.
Moreover, Charlie-1 is actually described as an appraisal venture. In theory, this means its lower risk – at least relatively speaking – compared with some of the wells drilled by 88 in the past.
It is a new assessment of systems observed previously in the Malguk-1 discovery well, which was drilled by BP in 1991. That original hole cut some 251 feet of light oil pay which was at the time left untested.
88 Energy’s involvement is further de-risked, financially, because its share of outlay will mostly be covered by Premier.
The bigger partner earlier this year agreed to fund up to US$23mln of the well as part of its acquisition of a 60% stake in one portion of the Project Icewine acreage.
In addition to the obvious value upside - potentially confirming hundreds of millions of barrels of crude - for 88 Energy investors a success at Charlie would be pivotal as it would lock in a capable operator like Premier for a longer-term project.
After Charlie, Premier has the option to take control of the project as operator.
Premier also has the potential to take-up more of the Icewine acreage. Included in August’s farm-out deal is the option to build on its position in Area A by acquiring 50% of Area B or Area C by spending another US$15mln on future work.
Drilling is set to start at the Charlie well site in February.
Before that, 88 Energy investors await completion of the initial farm-out transaction and further desktop matters will also be squared away.
The deal is slated to close in November and in the meantime other work streams are underway.
“Significant progress has been made on the permitting front, with only two of the key permits now outstanding; the plan of operations and permit to drill, which are both in the process of being finalised and approved,” 88 Energy said.
“Additionally, tendering and finalisation of contracts for equipment and services required for Charlie-1 are advancing as planned.”
The countdown is effectively now on, and, for investors the excitement will likely build as the 2020 spud-date approaches.