1 Big Trend Guiding Chevron's 2014 Spending

Chevron's 2014 capex shows that the majority of significant upstream projects are outside the U.S., and investors need to follow the oil.

Jan 12, 2014 at 1:07PM

Chevron (NYSE:CVX) released its 2014 capital and exploratory budget back in December, and one trend really sticks out: $27.9 billion in international upstream spending versus $7.9 billion in U.S. upstream spending. Even though U.S. fields like Eagle Ford and the Bakken are press favorites, most growth is being found overseas or offshore. 

Chevron's major projects 
Argentina's Vaca Muerta is one of Chevron's big international projects. There is some degree of nationalization risk as Argentina did recently nationalize YPF. Still, nationalizations are a part of doing business in Latin America, and Argentina needs Chevron's skills to help stop its falling hydrocarbon production. Back in May 2013 Chevron signed a deal to help develop Vaca Muerta that may reach up to $15 billion in overall investment over its lifetime.

In Russia and Kazakhstan Chevron is busy working on the Caspian Pipeline Expansion. When the crude oil pipeline is finished in 2015 it will have a capacity of 1.4 million barrels per day (mmbpd) to Novorossiysk on the Black Sea.

Chevron is not alone in Russia. ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) recently signed a deal with Rosneft to do some unconventional drilling up in the Siberian oil fields. Seeing as these deals are minority ventures with a Russian firm, ExxonMobil's nationalization risk is limited for the time being. BP (NYSE:BP) learned this lesson the hard way when it was forced to sell its 50% stake in TNK-BP. BP has smarted up and now owns 19.75% of Rosneft.

Up in Canada Chevron is also active in the Hebron offshore field with ExxonMobil and Statoil (NYSE:STO). The offshore field does have its challenges between the rough seas and heavy oil it holds. The upside is that there are a number of refineries close by, decreasing transportation costs.

What does this mean for Chevron?
With its total debt-to-equity ratio of 0.12 Chevron has almost no debt, but it does have to worry about falling volumes from its huge legacy operations. In Q3 2013 Chevron produced 1.279 mmbpd of liquids internationally and 0.448 mmbpd domestically.

It needs big projects like Vaca Muerta to defeat declining production. Even though a number of its big projects are in politically sensitive areas, Chevron is doing a good job of decreasing nationalization risk by working with many governments in different parts of the world.

BP's, ExxonMobil's, and Statoil's international futures
ExxonMobil is in a similar position to Chevron. Its Q3 2013 liquids production came in at a massive 2.199 mmbpd. Its balance sheet is clean with a total debt-to-equity ratio of 0.13. It needs to use its capital to develop megaprojects on a regular basis. Its latest projects in Russia show that increasingly it is being forced into regions of questionable political stability in order to find megaprojects.

From Q1 2013 to Q3 2013 BP's total upstream production excluding Russia has been heading downhill. Falling production should not be too surprising given its asset sales after Macondo. BP's total debt-to-equity ratio of 0.39 is significantly above ExxonMobil's or Chevron's total debt-to-equity ratios, but BP's debt load is not too excessive. Russia's Rosneft provides growth and makes BP's debt load more sustainable, bringing in $800 million in net income in Q3 2013.

For the next decade it looks like Statoil will be quite active in Canada. It made one of the largest oil discoveries of 2013 when it found Bay du Nord in the Flemish Pass close to Newfoundland. With decades of offshore experience in frigid Arctic waters, Statoil is great company to develop such Canadian fields. Financing this development will not be a problem. In Q3 2013 it produced 1.852 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (mmboepd) and EBITDA of $11.3 billion.

Bottom line
Between Chevron, ExxonMobil, Statoil, and BP it is increasingly clear that developing countries and offshore fields offer the biggest growth opportunities. Investing in Chevron is a great way to buy into overseas action, as it has decades of international experience and operates in many corners of the world. Statoil's successful exploration programs also make it a good company to look at.

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Joshua Bondy has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Chevron and Statoil (ADR). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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