Empire Petroleum is banking on North Dakota projects to make it a good production year


In an update for its North Dakota drilling efforts, Tulsa’s Empire Petroleum said it expects 2024 to be a year of progress.

Empire also announced preliminary operational and financial results for the fourt quarter and at the same time, informed investors of the program to further develop the Starbuck Field in North Dakota. The company also explained it has started technical work for production uplift opportunities in New Mexico and Texas.

Empire’s first well in the Starbuck program came online in December of 2023 and four other wells in the Upper Charles Formation were put on production.

“As of today, collectively all four wells have over 18,000 feet of horizontal pay and the Company is currently optimizing completions while increasing the core production through its enhanced oil recovery program,” stated the company in its announcement.

“Production since the purchase of the Starbuck Field has increased over 500%, with a goal of growth of 2,000% to 5,000% by the end of 2024.”

Empire explained it has one rig in the Starbuck Field drilling a fifth horizontal well. It will be followed by completion of two previously drilled vertical wells.

Empire has also logged five vertical pilot wells to help identify additional pay and extend existing reservoirs, which has confirmed three additional primary zones of interest and two secondary zones of interest. In addition, the Company has drilled a vertical appraisal well in the Starbuck Field to core two new target zones for development. The two new primary target zones of development have been successfully cored as of this press release and the cores have just been delivered for analysis. The data will then be added to the development plan while the vertical well will be placed on production in Q1 2024.

Complementing these efforts, Empire has begun its technical work for production uplift opportunities on its New Mexico and Texas assets, including a pilot drilling program in New Mexico that is expected to begin later in 2024.


Production and Expenses. The Company’s Q4 2023 total production is estimated at 185,000 barrels of oil equivalent or approximately 2,011 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/D) (approximately 64% oil), with estimated production revenue of approximately $9.9 million. Lease operating expenses including workovers trended higher than prior quarters and reflect a higher level of compliance-related activities. The Company’s general and administrative expenses are expected to be higher on a sequential basis in Q4 2023 resulting from legal costs regarding financing and operations. The Company is continuing its closing process and analysis of its results including the finalization of proved oil and gas reserves and would note that the 12-month trailing average WTI price for 2023 is $78/barrel versus $94/barrel in 2022 and natural gas is $2.64 per MMBtu for 2023 versus $6.36 per MMBtu in 2022.

Capital Investments. The Company expects its incurred capital expenditures from Q4 2023 to be approximately $18 million to $20 million. The bulk of the expenditures are related to the Starbuck Drilling Program. For 2024 to date, the Company estimates it has incurred Starbuck Drilling Program capital expenditures of between $7 million and $9 million.

Liquidity and Capital Resources. As of December 31, 2023, the Company’s working capital is expected to be a deficit of approximately $5 million, which is primarily driven by payables related to the Starbuck Drilling Program. The Company’s availability under its new credit facility was $5.5 million at December 31, 2023. An additional $2.7 million has been borrowed under the new credit facility during Q1 2024.

On February 16, 2024, the Company entered into a $5 million convertible bridge loan agreement with Energy Evolution Master Fund, Ltd, , the Company’s largest stockholder, with an initial amount of $2.5 million received on February 16, 2024. The loan matures on February 15, 2026, and the interest rate of 7% is payable in the Company’s stock on a quarterly basis. The additional $2.5 million can be drawn anytime in the next three months at the Company’s request.

Empire’s full fiscal year and Q4 2023 financial results are planned for release concurrently with the filing of its Form 10-K, which is currently estimated to be on March 28, 2024. The unaudited results or balances noted in this press release are preliminary and subject to adjustment. Actual results may differ materially from these estimates.

Mike Morrisett, President & Chief Executive Officer of Empire, commented, “We are extremely pleased to have the continued support of our major shareholders – Phil Mulacek and EEF – who in November 2023 invested $20 million, as described in our prior Form 8-K’s, to support our recent capital spending for the Starbuck Drilling Program.”

Mr. Morrisett continued, “The first four wells online have initially increased production in the Starbuck field to over 500%. We look forward to bringing more wells online in 2024. Also to note and described in a previous filed Form 8-K, we have recently established a new $10 million revolver facility with a regional bank focusing on our ongoing development efforts in North Dakota. I would like to thank our employees, field crew, vendors and consultants, who have worked tirelessly during the harsh winter elements.”

Phil Mulacek, Chairman of the Board of Empire, expanded, “During the recent development, we have learned a substantial amount about the technical backbone of the field and reservoir, as well as related enhanced drilling and completion techniques. The result has been material cost reductions on a per well basis, which creates the potential for excellent well economics within our North Dakota operations.”

Mr. Mulacek concluded, “We are exploring the additional formations in parallel to expand the drilling activities. Right now, we are awaiting core results and have commissioned seismic studies to put into place a much larger production program. We plan on further developing the Upper Charles Formation with enhanced oil recovery techniques and look forward to expanding the North Dakota development in the additional target zones in the second and third quarters of 2024. We are also excited about the development opportunities we see in our remaining attractive asset portfolio. This includes a near term focus on our New Mexico and Texas assets, including the potential to begin a pilot drilling program in New Mexico later this year. We look forward to keeping everyone apprised of our progress.”