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What You Need to Know About Big Oil's Recent Quarter

Let's face it, big oil is called that for a reason. They're huge companies with thousands of working parts, so trying to track every single well drilled would probably take a whole year. Rather than find yourself buried in a heap of information, here are some key investor takeaways from several integrated majors that should give you a clearer picture of what is going on. 

Oil prices left a nasty mark
When Total's (NYSE: TOT  ) 3% drop in adjusted net income year over year is by far and away the best quarter of the integrated majors, you know there were some problems.

Company net income change (year over year)
Total  (3%) 
BP (NYSE: BP  ) (25%)
Chevron (NYSE: CVX  )   (26%)
Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) (57%)
ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) (57%)

Source: Second-quarter earnings presentations

Just about every single company got stung by the same thing: declines in Brent crude prices. All of these companies get more oil from outside the North America, and the decline in demand for Brent has taken a big toll on them because they are all very sensitive to the price of Brent crude. To give an example, Total has stated that every $10 change in Brent prices represents a $1.2 billion swing in adjusted net income. 

The irony of the whole situation is that the increased prices for domestically sourced crudes hurt these players as well. Both Exxon and Chevron saw declines in refining margins in the U.S. because the narrowed difference between WTI and Brent crude meant that the advantaged crudes in the US weren't as advantaged as they were before. Only BP seemed to have some bright news when it came to refining as it just completed a 250,000 barrel per day upgrade at it's Whiting, Ind., refinery. 

Production in holding pattern
All of these companies didn't exactly set the world on fire earnings-wise, so the next logical step is to look at production. Based on the results, there isn't much to gain from these numbers either.  

Company Change in Total Production (year over year)
Total 1%
Royal Dutch Shell  (1.3%)
BP (1.5%)
ExxonMobil (1.8%)
Chevron (2.4%)

Source: Investor presentations

Even though Chevron had the worst year over year drops in production, there isn't much concern with those numbers. Of the 63,000 barrels per day of production that was lost, 45,000 of those were from scheduled downtime for maintenance and should be coming back up soon. Even Shell's drop in production can be explained as the company's problems with theft, sabotage, and blockades dropped its Nigerian production by 100,000 barrels per day. In fact, if there was something positive to get from these results is that these companies were all able to maintain relatively stable production despite selling off non-core assets.

For companies of this size, it takes more than a well or two to really move the needle in terms of production, so its the big projects coming down the pipe for every one of these companies that is going to have the deepest impact. The most recent of these projects is the Angola LNG project. The facility just started delivering cargoes of LNG to Brazil at the end of June, so we should see some revenue jumps on the natural gas side from Chevron (35% working interest in project), BP (13.6%), and Total (13.6%) next quarter. Total estimates that the Angola LNG facility will provide a 12% boost to its natural gas sales.  

Patience for big priojects

Company Next Major Project Estimated Start-up Estimated Production Net to Company (in barrels per day)
BP Mars B Offshore project in Gulf of Mexico 2014 28,500 barrels per day
Chevron Gorgon project First deliveries beginning 2015 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day from LNG 
ExxonMobil Kashagan Next couple of weeks  ramp-up to 30,200 by 2014, second phase planned for 62,000
Royal Dutch Shell Cosure of Repsol LNG asset acquisition Second half 2013 4.2 million tons of LNG export capacity per year, a fleet of LNG ships, and a 7.2 million tons per year in marketing and trading 
Total Jubail refinery Third quarter 2013 Refinery throughput of 150,000 barrels per day

Despite the less than attractive production numbers this past quarter, there are several signs that suggest that big oil is about to get a big boost in production. The Kashagan -- of which Shell, Exxon, and Total each have an 18% stake -- is one of the most anticipated projects to come on line in many years. The super giant oil field holds an estimated 38 billion barrels of oil in place and could be a very long life asset for the companies involved. In fact, almost all of these major projects will affect multiple partners. Gorgon is split between Chevron (47.3%), Exxon (25%), and Shell (25%), and the Mars B offshore project is 71.2% owned by Shell. So, as much as these companies may be competing against each other, their prospects are all tied to the success of the others.

What a Fool believes
Investing in big oil takes a very long-term view, because quarters like this past one will happen from time to time. While these kinds of quarters may not be deal breakers, it certainly does expose some of the weaknesses of these companies that are worth taking a look at. Long term, all of these companies have major projects coming on line that should significantly affect revenue and earnings, so be sure to check up on how these companies are doing after start-up.


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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2013, at 9:54 PM, seacat96 wrote:

    Just for clarity - BP's next major project "Mars B" is operated by Shell which will add 71,500 bpd to Shell's daily production - its a 100,000 bpd facility.

  • Report this Comment On August 10, 2013, at 5:37 AM, seacat96 wrote:

    So feels much more like a major project for Shell!

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