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Like its peers, Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) has interests in hundreds of oil and gas projects around the world, with major operations in the U.S., Australia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Angola, the Republic of the Congo, and several other countries. One region in particular, however, stands out in terms of its expected contribution to the company's production growth over the next few years. Let's take a closer look.
Chevron's huge growth runway in the Gulf
That region is the Gulf of Mexico, where the company plans to spend almost $12 billion to develop projects such as Jack/St. Malo and Big Foot. Though the deepwater Gulf of Mexico contributed less production than Chevron's other operating regions such as Latin America and Africa, the company's Gulf production is poised to accelerate rapidly over the next few years, as three of its largest Gulf projects, including Jack/St. Malo, Big Foot, and Tubular Bells, start up next year.
Jack/St. Malo will involve the development of the Jack and St. Malo oilfields, two massive fields in which Chevron holds a 50% interest, with Maersrk and Statoil (NYSE: STO ) each owning 25% of the balance. At full capacity, the $7.5 billion project will produce 177,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, of which 88,500 BOE/d will be net to Chevron.
Similarly, Big Foot is another massive oilfield located roughly 225 miles south of New Orleans in water depths of 5,200 feet. The field will be developed by Chevron, which serves as the operator with a 60% interest, as well as Statoil and Marubeni Oil & Gas, which hold 27.5% and 12.5% interests, respectively, using a dry tree Extended Tension Leg Platform with an onboard drilling rig. The project will have a production capacity of 79,000 BOE/d, with 47,500 BOE/d net to Chevron.
Lastly, Tubular Bells is located about 135 miles south of New Orleans in water depths of about 4,300 feet. The $3 billion project is operated by Hess (NYSE: HES ) , which holds a 57.14% working interest, in partnership with Chevron, which holds the remaining 42.86% interest. It will be developed using a production facility consisting of a subsea wet tree infrastructure tied to a three-level topside structure, with a peak production capacity of 40,000 to 45,000 BOE/D, with 17,150 to 19,300 BOE/d of production net to Chevron.
The combined impact of these three projects coming online will be truly massive. At full capacity, they should contribute more than 150,000 BOE/d of net production, representing a more than doubling of Chevron's 2012 production level of 125,000 BOE/d in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
The future of Gulf drilling
Chevron's not the only company investing heavily in the Gulf of Mexico. BP (NYSE: BP ) plans to invest at least $4 billion per year to develop its vast portfolio of projects in the Gulf over the next 10 years. Despite the ongoing fallout from the 2010 Gulf Oil spill, the British oil giant is the largest producer and leaseholder in the Gulf, with a company record of nine rigs currently operating in the region.
Similarly, Anadarko (NYSE: APC ) also has high hopes for the Gulf of Mexico, where its track record of exploration success has been phenomenal. The company commands approximately 3 million gross acres in the region, with major projects such as Lucius and Heidelberg slated to start up in the second half of next year and in 2016, respectively. Anadarko expects to allocate roughly 15% of its capital budget to its Gulf of Mexico projects.
As these examples might suggest, drilling activity in the Gulf has picked up considerably this year and is poised to accelerate dramatically over the next several years. By 2016, Gulf production could surpass its 2009 peak of 1.8 million barrels, potentially reaching 1.9 million barrels by 2020, according to projections by consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
The bottom line
In addition to its tremendous growth opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico, Chevron has significant operations in Latin America and Africa, where it is a top-tier producer in Angola, Nigeria, and Venezuela and has 15 major projects slated to start up through 2017. It also boasts strong positions in leading U.S. resource plays, especially the Permian Basin.
Overall, Chevron has a nice mix of high-margin oil and gas projects providing near-term production and cash flow growth, balanced with long-lived projects that should provide strong and predictable production and cash flows for decades to come. If the company can avoid further cost overruns and delays at its Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG ventures in Australia, these projects should provide a major boost to production and cash flows when they come online in mid-2015 and 2016, respectively.
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