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You have probably never heard of Midland.
Located in the heart of West Texas, the nearest major city is a four-hour drive away. This town is about as close to the 'middle of nowhere' as it gets. Yet Midland could be sitting on the largest oil discovery in American history.
Thanks to new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, millions of barrels of previously unrecoverable oil are now being pulled up from the nearby Permian Basin.
One company has been quietly buying up tracts of land in this area since the 1980's. And the firm's prospects are so exciting that billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros owns a $200 million stake in the firm. Other smart money operators like Stanley Druckenmiller and John Paulson are pouring money into the stock as well.
I'm talking, of course, about Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE: PXD ) .
George Soros owns 964,000 shares of this stock
For those of you unfamiliar with this name, Pioneer is one of the country's largest independent oil and gas companies. The firm was the first non-integrated player to produce oil from Alaska's North Slope. Today, the company boasts a great set of high-quality assets in the Eagle Ford, Barnett Shale, and other fields.
But it's the company's assets in the West Texas Spraberry Wolfcamp that are really impressive. For instance...
- According to Pioneer's estimates, the Wolfcamp contains 50 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil. If accurate, that would make the Wolfcamp one of the largest oil finds ever, seconded in size only to Saudi Arabia's Ghawar.
- In some parts of the field, the pay zone is up to 3,500 feet thick. That's like having six Eagle Fords or eight Bakkens stacked on top of one another.
- And assuming $95 crude oil and $4 natural gas prices, each well can generate an internal rate of return between 60% and 150%.
If that sounds like an opportunity, I would have to agree with you.
All of this has translated into eye-popping growth for investors. Over the past three years Pioneer has increased its revenues at a 26% compounded annual clip in spite of flat energy prices. And this expansion should continue with the company's production expected to grow 15% per year through 2015.
And much of this growth will be self-funding. Assuming oil prices stay above $80 per barrel, Pioneer should be able to generate enough cash flow to fund its expansion program without any major equity issues.
Could this oil field be the next Bakken?
Now this could all be hype. But strong results from other Wolfcamp operators seem to back up Pioneer's claims.
Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN ) , which owns about 250,000 acres in the play, has brought about 19 wells online this year. Many of these wells have averaged 24-hour initial production rates above 1,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, or boepd.
Notably, the Wolfcamp is also rich in high-margin oil and liquids. This summer Approach Resources (NASDAQ: AREX ) reported that production from one of the its Wolfcamp A wells was made up of 86% oil. The company has leased roughly 170,000 gross acres in the play, and other well results have also been impressive.
Energen (NYSE: EGN ) , one of the smaller names in the area, owns about 40,000 net acres in the Wolfcamp. In September the stock surged 17% after one of its first operated wells posted a 30-day initial production rate of 861 boepd. Based on the company's results, multiple benches of the Wolfcamp could have commercial potential.
These results are clear. If the Spraberry Wolfcamp can live up to a fraction of the hype, it could be the biggest investment opportunity of 2014.
Foolish bottom line
When you combine one of the biggest oil finds in American history with record production growth, it should be no surprise that billionaires like George Soros are buying up this stock. Investors should certainly consider adding Pioneer to their own watch lists this year.
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