How ConocoPhillips Is Stopping its Decline in the U.S.

Recently, I took a look at international projects that ConocoPhillip (NYSE: COP  ) is developing in order to mitigate the natural decline of its base assets. Despite spending $9 billion to add 170,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, it is not enough to offset the decline of those assets. The good news is that Conoco's development projects in the U.S. not only offset declines here in the states, but also offset the declines at its international operations. Let's drill down into these projects and see how this is possible.

Alaska
Even with spending $2.5 billion in its five-year plan, ConocoPhillips can only mitigate its base decline by 3% per year. That's actually not a bad decline rate, but it is something that the company will need to make up elsewhere if it plans on growing. Overall, the capital invested will offset about 35,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of production by 2017. The good news is that the rest of its U.S. development capital is being invested to grow production above its decline rates.

Permian Basin
Over the five-year development plan, Conoco will spend about $3 billion on its million net acres in the Permian. By adding 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of production, Conoco will not only mitigate its base decline, but will see 7% compound annual production growth through 2017. Not only is production growing here, but its oil production will go from about 30% last year, to over 75% of production over the five-year plan. That's a great showing, with the improvement in oil production the big key here.

The Bakken
With a five-year plan to spend about $4 billion, Conoco has big plans for the Bakken. This capital will drive tremendous production growth of 45,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, and will result in a compound annual production growth rate of 18% through 2017. Again, like the Permian, the production mix will increasingly be oil, with the production mix jumping from 20% oil last year, to a five-year average of more than 80%.

The Bakken is one of the premier oil-levered plays in the U.S. With 2012 production of less than 30,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, Conoco is a smaller player. For perspective, its production in the play is a bit more than Kodiak Oil and Gas (NYSE: KOG  ) , which should end this year at that rate. Even with all the growth, ConocoPhillips' projected 2017 production of more than 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day will be well short of current top dog Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR  ) , which already sees production topping that mark. Still, the Bakken is a key resource to develop for the company, and this is money well spent.

Eagle Ford
The biggest capital spend will be on developing its position in the Eagle Ford Shale. Conoco's plan calls for $8 billion to be spent over the course of its five-year development. That will add more than 130,000 barrels of production per day by 2017, which is a compound annual growth rate of 16%. Again, like the Bakken and Permian, this production will be increasingly oil rich, as the mix shifts from around 20% last year, to an average of more than 60%.

The Eagle Ford is one of the best liquids growth pays in the U.S., and Conoco isn't the only company investing heavily to develop this play. Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) is devoting the largest portion of its capital on the play, with 35% of its drilling and completion capital earmarked to develop the Eagle Ford this year. As one of the best liquids growth plays, its no wonder why these two are investing so heavily in its development. 

My Foolish take
When you add up these four key areas with the company's other legacy development opportunities, ConocoPhillips plans to grow its production in the U.S. by 5% annually through 2017. In total, the company will be spending $25 billion through 2017 to add 365,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day here at home. That's just enough to offset the declines in its international development programs to keep production steady throughout its current portfolio  In order to grow production, Conoco will need to deliver on its major international projects so that it can meet its ambitious goal of growing production by 3% to 5% on an annual basis.

With production growth such a key component of an energy investment, it's important to drill down to see which companies are growing and where that growth is coming from. One company that's doing just that is Kodiak Oil & Gas. This is a dynamic growth story, filled with great opportunities, as well as great risks. Before you hitch your horse to this carriage, let us help you with your due diligence. To see if Kodiak is currently a buy or sell, check out our new premium report.


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