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by Stockwatch Business Reporter
Christmas Eve brought an early close to the markets, but also a bit of cheer for oil prices. West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery added 81 cents to $61.11 on the New York Merc, while Brent for February lost 40 cents to $67.20 (all figures in this para U.S.). Western Canadian Select traded at a discount of $21.95 to WTI, unchanged. Natural gas for January lost four cents to $2.17. The TSX energy index added a fraction to close at 145.79.
One country is enjoying an unexpected early Christmas present. Over the weekend, production started from the Exxon-operated Liza field off the coast of Guyana, marking Guyana's first ever production, which had not been expected until 2020. Output is expected to climb to 120,000 barrels a day in the coming months. China's CNOOC, which owns a minority interest in Liza, declared itself "very pleased with the commencement of production ahead of schedule."
Equally pleased will be some of our Canadian juniors that also dot the Guyanese coast. Just 11 kilometres away from Liza is the Orinduik block, a joint venture among Eco (Atlantic) Oil & Gas Ltd. (EOG: $0.95), Tullow Oil and France's Total. The joint venturers have made two discoveries at Orinduik so far. Optimism about Orinduik sent Eco's stock racing up to nearly $3 in September from just 70 cents at the start of the year. In November, however, that optimism dimmed -- and Eco's stock plunged back below $1 -- after fluid samples from Orinduik showed the presence of heavy sour crude, very different from the lovely, sweet-natured Liza. The Orinduik joint venturers are undeterred and are currently working on an updated contingent resource report and a 2020 drill program. Eco's management also took the drop as a buying opportunity. In late November, seven directors and officers (including chief executive officer Gil Holzman and chief operating officer Colin Kinley, the company's co-founders) bought a total of 466,000 shares.
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