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EOG Resources Is Running Away From the Competition

Tuesday - 3/26/2013, 11:56pm  ET

I simply can't avoid bringing Fools up to date on the key trends and metrics that EOG Resources laid out for attendees at last week's Howard Weil's Annual Energy Conference. After you've considered the company's heady information, I think you'll agree that an extensive search is unlikely to yield a more successful independent producer than the Houston-based operator.

The company's accomplishments aren't on the proverbial come, awaiting a ratcheting up of commodities prices, as is the case with, say, Chesapeake Energy . Solely for the sake of perspective, I'll remind you that in its most recent quarter, EOG topped the analysts' per-share earnings consensus by an unusually high $0.24, or 17%. And when compared with its year-earlier per-share results, the differential was 40%.

EOG Resources is hardly tethered to North America. It currently is involved in the promising Neuquen Basin of Argentina, China's Sichuan Basin, offshore Trinidad and Tobago, and the Irish Sea. In addition, the company operates in several smaller or more nascent U.S. onshore plays. But the areas that have made it especially power-packed are the Eagle Ford of south Texas, the Bakken and Three Forks of North Dakota, and the revitalized Permian Basin of southwestern Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Scoring with an eagle
As CEO Mark Papa said during the company's post-release conference call last month: "The Eagle Ford continues to be our flagship oil asset..." And why not? Taking into account all of the companies that are working in the hot play, total production was 373,000 barrels a day in January, up from 248,403 barrels daily for the same month of 2012. That, if my calculation is correct, represents a 50% hike. EOG is the Eagle Ford's leader, with a total of 644,000 net acres. That's more than 30% above Chesapeake's 490,000 net acres.

But not only does EOG own sizable acreage in the play, it also conducts its operations there wisely and efficiently. In part for that reason, it is the largest horizontal crude oil producer in the U.S. by a whopping two-to-one ratio. Further, with natural gas prices remaining in the doldrums and unlikely to emerge anytime soon, it's noteworthy that fully 88% of EOG's revenues for 2013 are expected to be tied to oil and natural gas liquids.

As the company has become more familiar with the Eagle Ford, it's become convinced of the efficacy of decreased spacing between wells. That clearly has been the case. From 130-acre spacing, management has moved to a range of 65-acre to 90-acre spacing, with 40-acrer to 65-acre spacing probably in the offing.

A key result last year was an impressive jump from the previously estimated 900 million barrels of recoverable oil from EOG's Eagle Ford acreage to 1.6 billion barrels. That number could move to about 2.2 billion barrels. And with its production infrastructure (e.g. roads, etc.) already in place, the present value of the company's production in the play has risen since 2009 from slightly less than $24 per barrels to more than $34.

Building in the Bakken
Similarly, in the Bakken and Three Forks oil plays in the Williston Basin the company is testing a move from 320-acre spacing to a 160-acre approach. Plans for 2013 call for the drilling of 53 net wells, which are expected to benefit from the application of new fracking techniques.

Most of those wells will be drilled in the core areas that have been demonstrably prolific, along with the promising Antelope Extension, which runs from western North Dakota into Montana. From a cost perspective, the company is benefiting from an innovative crude-by-rail system -- unless and until TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline becomes reality -- by which it is able to ship its production to Louisiana. It also benefits from the ability to use self-sourced sand in the fracking process.

New life in the Permian Basin
EOG has also had notable success in the Wolfcamp Shale and Leonard Shale portions of the Permian Basin. In the former play, for instance, it estimates its reserve potential (as opposed to proved reserves) at about 800 million barrels of oil equivalent from its 114,000 net acres.

In the Leonard Shale, its estimated potential reserves have been upgraded from 65 million barrels of oil equivalent net to the company to about 550 million equivalent barrels. It anticipates drilling about 16 net wells on its 73,000 net Leonard acres during 2013.

The Foolish bottom line
As indicated, the company is involved in several other North American plays, including the Powder River Basin and DJ Basin of Colorado, along with the Marcellus Shale, largely in Pennsylvania. But clearly most of its funding will be poured into the three above-mentioned plays for the foreseeable future. In fact, last year management decided to sell its 30% interest in Canada's Kitimat LNG facility to Chevron in order to increase the funds available for its big U.S. plays.

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