This article was updated on Oct. 3, 2014.
The dramatic uplift in American oil and gas production is changing the global energy landscape. When it comes to crude oil production, the U.S. topped both Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world's top oil producer in 2014. This has shaken OPEC to its core, with the following seven U.S. oil companies making its worst nightmare a reality.
The bountiful Bakken
North Dakota's Bakken Shale has fueled an amazing boost to American oil production. The numbers are just staggering. Just take a look at the following chart:
There's plenty of production growth still to come. Whiting Petroleum (NYSE: WLL ) , which is the top oil producer in the Bakken shale, still has nearly 3,500 future drilling locations in the play, representing a decade of future drilling locations. What's really compelling about those locations is the fact that Whiting Petroleum continues to get better at drilling wells. The company's improved frac design has increased the initial production rate and the estimated ultimate recovery of the wells the company is drilling.
Another leader in the Bakken shale is Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR ) . The company is leading the charge to drill the Three Forks formation, which sits below the Bakken. That oil-rich shale, when combined with the Bakken, could add 20 billion barrels of recoverable oil to America's energy reserves. That's quite a boost from our current reserves of 33.4 billion barrels of oil. Because of this, Continental Resources expects to triple both its production and reserves by 2017. This is a true nightmare scenario for OPEC and one that Continental Resources hopes becomes its reality.
Production here is soaring like an Eagle
Back in 2010 EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG ) then-CEO Mark Papa said that the Eagle Ford could "prove to be one of the most significant United States oil discoveries in the past 40 years." Over the years since, thanks to its strong position in Texas' Eagle Ford shale, EOG Resources has proven that statement to be correct, as its oil production has grown by an average of 40% per year. The company doesn't expect that growth to taper off anytime soon. In fact, EOG Resources sees best-in-class oil production growth through at least 2017 as it continues to get better at getting oil out of the Eagle Ford. On top of that EOG Resources recently discovered five new horizontal oil plays to extend its growth for more than a decade. Looking back at that remark, OPEC should have seen it as a word of warning that its worst nightmare was truly unfolding.
Likewise, Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) has seen game-changing production growth out of the Eagle Ford. That has helped America's second-largest natural gas producer to survive as natural gas prices have remained low. Overall, Chesapeake Energy was one of the earliest adopters in using the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that has been the key to unlocking our vast oil and gas resources from shale. That's in addition to leading the discovery of many liquids-rich shale plays like the Utica Shale. If America is able to break OPEC's grip on world energy prices, Chesapeake Energy will be remembered as one of the main contributors to its demise.
A legacy basin with lots of growth
The Eagle Ford shale isn't the only oil basin in Texas giving OPEC a run for is money. The Permian Basin, which has produced 29 billion barrels of oil since its discovery in the 1920s, still holds an estimated 75 billion barrels of oil-equivalent recoverable resources, according to Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE: PXD ) . That makes it by far the largest oil field in the U.S. and among the biggest in the entire world.
As Pioneer Natural Resources and its Permian Basin peers use horizontal drilling to unlock the oil still trapped in this legacy oil basin, it will only diminish OPEC's influence further.
Even carbon dioxide is our ally against OPEC
While many think carbon dioxide might be the environment's worst enemy, it's an old oil well's best friend. Consider that the average American oil well only gives up 30% of its product willingly. What that means is that companies have left a staggering 89 billion barrels of oil underground. If the United States could actually recover that oil, our nation would rank fifth in the world in terms of the size of our oil reserves, up from No. 12. That would mean our oil reserves could rival Middle Eastern nations such as Iraq and Iran.
By injecting carbon dioxide into a declining oil field, producers like Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY ) and Denbury Resources (NYSE: DNR ) are able to unlock these vast quantities of oil. For example, Occidental Petroleum uses naturally occurring carbon dioxide to produce 60% of the oil it gets out of the Permian Basin. Looking ahead, Occidental Petroleum believes it can recover another 2.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources using this process in the Permian. This is oil that otherwise would have simply stayed underground because there simply isn't enough pressure for it to come out willingly.
Denbury Resources is also using naturally occurring carbon dioxide to bring aging oil fields back to life. However, it's taking efforts a step further by taking carbon dioxide from several industrial projects that capture carbon dioxide instead of emitting the gas. Denbury Resources is then able to inject that man-made carbon dioxide into a well and produce the oil while at the same time locking the carbon dioxide underground. It's a uniquely green way of producing more oil.
OPEC is likely losing a lot of sleep these days and is rumored to be considering a production cut to put a halt to falling oil prices. These seven American oil and gas companies can take most of the blame for its concerns. That is because the nightmare scenario in which its top customer no longer needs its product is slowly becoming a reality with each well these companies drill. It's shifting the global energy dynamics, while giving American investors the opportunity to profit from OPEC's worst nightmare becoming its reality.
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