Deepwater wells are incredibly expensive to drill. For example, the daily rate to lease a ship equipped to drill in depths of more than 4,000 feet is $481,000. That's per day. However, oil companies accept these costs because of the vast amounts of oil waiting to be unlocked.
Looking over the next few years, the deepwater market is poised for some truly remarkable growth. With oil prices exceeding $100 it is expected that oil companies will triple global capital spending to $114 billion in the deepwater by 2022, according to Wood Mackenzie. That flood of capital speaks of a simply massive future opportunity for companies operating in the deepwater. The following slide puts a few more numbers behind that growth.
In the first two charts we see a very clear upward trajectory of both drilling rigs in service as well as wells being drilled. Those two charts suggest a real boom in business for contract drillers such as Seadrill (NYSE: SDRL ) and Transocean (NYSE: RIG ) . That's why both have multibillion-dollar backlogs as oil companies have been locking up drilling rigs. However, the stock that most interests me at the moment isn't either of those companies, nor any of their peers. Instead, the stock I think could be the best way to play the explosion in deepwater drilling is oil service equipment provider FMC Technologies (NYSE: FTI ) .
That's because it is the leader in the subsea market, with a 41% market share. For some perspective, its closest peer Cameron (NYSE: CAM ) only boasts of a 19% share of the market. What has kept FMC Technologies at the top has as much to do with its technical leadership as it does with the long-term partnerships it has struck with customers. Not only is it working with some of the world's best deepwater exploration companies, but it's keeping these companies happy by improving the relationship.
For example, one partner is Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC ) , which has quietly become a top global exploration company. This year alone the company announced three major discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico as well as one off the coast of Mozambique. What's important about FMC's relationship to Anadarko is that FMC has standardized its equipment so that it is saving Anadarko money. That enables Anadarko to maintain its low-cost leadership while also strengthening the relationship with FMC. It's a bond that FMC's competitors aren't likely to break.
FMC Technologies has the relationships with the key players already in place to grow as these companies grow. The story doesn't end there as FMC works with its customers to pursue additional growth opportunities through the use of innovative technology and more cost-effective operations. That should keep FMC well positioned to capture additional growth in the future and even to expand its market share. So, while its stock isn't exactly cheap these days, it also has no shortage of growth opportunities that would seem to justify its premium price.
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