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It depends on how you want to look at your money. In reality the money that you invest into the oil business is different than the money you would invest into the stock market or the purchase of real estate. When someone invests into the stock market or the purchase of real estate they are investing with “post” tax dollars. Meaning they are using the money they have left over after paying the taxes that are owed on the money they earned to make the investment. But when someone invests into the drilling of an oil well they are given preferential treatment from the federal government in the form of Tangible and Intangible investment allowances. What this means is that if you invested $100,000.00 into the drilling of an oil well you would be allowed to write off or deduct the Intangible amount of your investment off of your annual gross income (60% to 75% of your investment could be written off against your personal income) on the year you made the investment. In essence you could never lose all of your money, because it was never all of your money in the first place. The government was going to get their part of your income regardless of whether you invested into an oil well or not. Generally for an accredited investor the government will get between 35% to 40% of your income anyway. So when you invest into an oil well you are only using some of your money and part of the government’s money.
When you purchase stock from a stock broker or online in essence you are buying tiny piece of a huge corporation with millions of different pieces. There is some comfort in knowing that it is a large corporation with holdings all over the world, but it also comes with a huge overhead to support. When one purchases stock in such a large corporation with their large overhead it takes a lot of movement in the market for one to make a substantial profit, plus you are buying the stock with “post” tax dollars so you are only getting to invest 60% to 70% of the income you had earned. You have already given up a large part of your buying power before you even start. When you invest into an oil well it is called “Direct Participation” and that is what is happening. You are investing directly either into one oil well or a group of oil wells. Your investment is more focused on the production of oil and not on the running of a huge corporation. Your investment will have the chance to grow faster and larger when it is focused instead of thrown into a huge group where it is used to run the machine.
There are different kinds of drilling when it comes to finding oil. The type that most people have heard of is “Wildcatting”. It is what was talked about on the TV shows of Dallas and other movies about oil wells where the guy goes out into the middle of nowhere and when he is down and out on his last dollar hits a gusher of a well and it blows up in the air and everyone lives happily ever after like the Beverly Hillbillies. In situations like that where one is drilling in the middle of no known oil production the odds of getting a dry hole are probably more like 25 to 1 that you will get a dry hole.
The other type of drilling that is done and has a much higher success rate is “Developmental Drilling”. When you are doing developmental drilling you are either drilling next to or very near to existing oil wells or oil fields. This type of drilling is highly successful and can sometimes have a 100% success rate. When investing into an oil well be sure to clarify if the investment is a wildcat or a developmental drilling project. Chances are if you are investing into a developmental drilling project your odds of hitting oil and making money are going to be very good.
The best way to find out if you are getting a good investment opportunity is to do the research. Generally that is why people buy stocks and investments from a stock brokerage house or online service they have heard of, because they are not really interested in doing the research. An investment representative will ask them their tolerance for risk and take their money and invest it for them. Minimal risk. Minimal return.
When investing into an oil well do the research. A for real oil drilling and exploration company will invite you to the drilling site and explain the risks to you first hand. They will allow you to hear what the geologist has to say in regard to whether the well is going to be commercial or not in his opinion. Legitimate oil operators don’t shy away from the investor who wants to learn more about the process of drilling and producing oil wells. They welcome the questions and comments and it allows you to get directly to the people who are making the oil well investment decisions and thereby increasing your knowledge of the oil industry and reducing your risk.
If anyone really knew how much oil an oil well would make before it was drilled do you really think they would be asking you to invest? Nobody knows. And I mean nobody knows how much an oil well is going to produce. When a project is based on developmental drilling it is easier to get an idea and a possible range, but even then nobody ever really knows how much an oil well will make. All oil wells are different. They can be right next to each other and be totally different. And that is why oil operators share the wealth and the risk when drilling. Because of the unknown. Even the largest companies in the world like Exxon, Shell or BP share the risk when they are drilling new projects, because they too know that there is an unknown factor when drilling oil wells and it is better to have a piece of a lot of oil wells than have all of your eggs in one basket per se with just one oil well.
Very rarely are the carrying costs to maintain and operate an existing oil well excessive. The exception is rare. The cost to prepare, drill and complete an oil well are expensive, but if an oil well is completed properly the cost to maintain and operate are almost minimal. There are some wells that may go a year or beyond before ever needing any additional maintenance. Only when you have factors such as corrosive fluids or other chemical reactions down hole do you encounter excessive maintenance costs. It is rare that you will have excessive mechanical costs after an oil well has been completed. Your oil operator is also your partner when you are involved in direct participation oil drilling and they do not want to be burdened with high carrying costs either. You can be assured they have already factored carrying costs into the equation, because they want the oil well to be a viable investment too.
In this sense investing into oil wells is like buying stock. You are only liable for the amount of your investment. In the stock market if the company you invested in goes broke or has a product liability issue you are not affected by these issues other than your investment may go down or become worthless. The same is true when investing in an oil well where you have an operating agreement between yourself and the operator stating that you are not liable for any actions of the oil well and the operator is assuming the responsibility and liability. It is like getting the best of both worlds. You are on the ground so to speak in the front row watching your investment, but without any of the liability.
Oil wells have a very long life span. Oil wells have a tendency to begin with a higher rate of production, because in the beginning you are letting off the pressure that has been captured underneath the earth’s surface for millions of years and over time it is like putting a very tiny tube into the side of huge tire full of air whereby it eventually slows down to a steady stream and continues to blow out air. Oil wells are similar. After the initial pressure has been released there is still oil in place and some wells will continue to produce 20, 30, 40 & 50 years under their own pressure. Some oil wells will need to get a push later in life with an operator injecting water or some form of gas to give the oil a push and help it come out. Even though production might not be as high in five years as it is on day oil wells generally have very long life spans.
Everything in life is cyclical. The price of oil is no different. However, in today’s world the market place is different. We now have 1 Billion people in India with a 300 Million middle class that are evolving and we have 1.1 Billion people in China that have 300 Million middle class that are evolving there too and consuming more and more energy to help their countries grow and prosper. Plus like the stock market oil wells are known to be long performers and continue to produce and give an economical return to their investors. In the stock market if the sales of a company should tumble and go into the negative column as it did with General Motors and all of the investors money was wiped out with the company filing bankruptcy due to low sales. In the situation of an oil well if the market price should drop below the amount needed to be profitable you can turn the well off and wait until the market price returns. And it always cycles back around again to profitability in the oil business. You find after doing the math on the amount of money you have invested that over time before factoring in your tax benefits that oil investments generally have a very high rate of return.
An interest in an oil well is sellable, because it is based on cash flow. Just like a stock is priced based on earnings times a multiple an oil interest is the same way. The longer you own an oil interest and the more established the production becomes the easy it is to sell, because it has a proven cash flow record just like a stock in a company would have.
It is believed that all of the big oil or easy oil has been found in the Continental United States excluding the offshore oil which is yet to be discovered. But big oil and new oil is expensive. Because it is in hard to get to places and it is much deeper than the oil found in the past it is much more expensive and therefore it would cost a private investor considerably more to invest in this type of oil exploration.
But there are thousands of proven oil fields in the United States with oil reserves in place that have been sitting idle for many years. Fields that were abandoned when the price of oil had dropped and before new technology was invented to get the oil out with reduced costs and at today’s prices make the developmental drilling procedures of an existing oil field very profitable and cost effective in today’s market place.
In Illinois alone there thousands of oil fields and in excess of 100,000+ oil wells that have produced millions of barrels of oil with millions of barrels of oil still sitting in place ready to be developed.