N.Y. Times News Service GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas _ Harken Energy
Corp. is a little Texas oil company dreaming of striking it big _
very big _ in the Middle East.
In oil industry parlance, Harken is hunting for an "elephant" _
a giant oil field potentially holding a billion or more barrels of
If Harken finds black gold in the tiny Persian Gulf nation of
Bahrain, those enriched by the discovery would make up a
surprisingly prominent cast.
They include the billionaire Bass family of Fort Worth, Texas,
Harvard University and George W. Bush, son of the president and
managing general partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
Analysts say a giant discovery would be a "company maker" for
Harken, a find that could boost its value tenfold or more virtually
As an obscure exploration company with no previous
international drilling experience, Harken was extremely lucky even
to get the chance to search for oil in a region surrounded by some
of the world's largest petroleum deposits.
Now, the company is counting on its technical skills _ and a
continued run of luck _ as it prepares to drill a series of wells
in the Arab emirate of Bahrain, a group of islands just east of
Under an agreement reached with Banoco, the national oil
company of Bahrain, Harken plans to begin drilling its first well
by Oct. 1 on the Jarim Reef, 25 miles north of the island of
The well will be a wildcat, drilled in a spot with no known oil
or gas deposits. But within 50 miles are some of the world's
largest petroleum fields, including the Ghawar field of Saudi
Arabia, the world's largest, with recoverable reserves of 82
billion barrels of oil and 33 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Harken executive vice president Monte Swetnam is excited about
looking for oil in a region where such copious quantities already
have been found.
As he puts it, "The best place to find kindling is around the
Dallas oilman Frank West, a member of Harken's exploration
advisory board, calls the company's initial Bahrain drill site "a
Class A wildcat, one that almost anyone would drill if they had the
money. . . .It's a real prize."
But Mikel Faulkner, Harken's chief executive officer, is quick
to emphasize that the 90-employee, Grand Prairie-based company is
drilling a wildcat well _ and that is, by its very nature, a highly
risky, unpredictable crap shoot.
Less than 10 percent of wildcat wells produce economically
recoverable quantities of oil or gas.
"It's a wildcat prospect, so you have to give it a low
probability of success, but it's the kind of thing that, if it
hits, could make a tenfold increase in the value of the company,"
Indeed, Houston oil analyst Chuck Strain speculates that
Harken's common stock could skyrocket to 10 to 15 times its current
price if the company were to discover a giant field of, say, 2
"I guess you'd call that a company maker," Strain said.
Harken common stock closed at $2.375 a share Friday. With
nearly 44.8 million shares outstanding, the company's present
market value is about $106 million. A tenfold increase in the stock
price would send that market value soaring above $1 billion.
A big oil strike by Harken would enrich:
The Bass family, which has agreed to pay for Harken's drilling
project in Bahrain in exchange for a cut of the revenues from oil
Harvard, which is, through an affiliate, a major stockholder
Bush, a Harken stockholder, director and consultant to the
Harken stockholders in general, who number about 9,200.
There has been media speculation that Harken might have won the
right to explore in Bahrain as a result of Bush being the offspring
of President Bush. At least one newspaper article implied that the
Persian Gulf War might have been fought in part to ensure that
Harken peacefully could explore for oil in the Middle East. …