Marathon Oil is Running Laps Around the Eagle Ford

What did it take for Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO  ) to grow total output (excluding Libya and Alaska) by 11% in 2013? A huge 86% jump in North American production certainly helped, including Eagle Ford output reaching a record of over 100,000 barrels per day.  

E&P players need to know that they can replace their output in a timely manner, so they don't have to realize output declines in the future. Last year Marathon Oil was able to replace 194% of that year's production, boosting proven reserves to 2.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

This was partly aided by continued developed of its liquids-rich Eagle Ford acreage. A combination of infrastructure build-outs, better drilling techniques, and an additional 4,800 acres in the Eagle Ford helped shore up Marathon Oil's reserve portfolio. 

The Eagle Ford
During the fourth quarter of 2013, production from the Eagle Ford averaged 90,000 boe/d, a sharp increase of 8,000 boe/d from the previous quarter. If the Eagle Ford is working for Marathon Oil, then it should continue to developing the area -- which is where opportunities open up for other players down the line.

Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) is building a new $70 million facility near the Eagle Ford to gain a stronger foothold in one of America's most promising, liquids-rich plays. Currently 550 employees will be working out of the space, and due to high levels of expected production growth, Halliburton plans to add an additional 450 workers by the end of 2014. 

Giving back
By increasing its dividend by 12% to 19 cents a share, Marathon Oil is now paying out roughly the average yield (2.3%) of a company in the S&P 500. On top of that, Marathon repurchased $500 million worth of is shares and plans on buying back an additional $2.5 billion. Now I would still like to see a larger dividend, but by reducing the share count Marathon Oil is giving long-term investors a bigger piece of the Eagle Ford growth story pie.

Foolish conclusion
Overall Marathon Oil posted a decent quarter, but it wasn't anything to get excited about. If it continues to focus on growing North American operations, then that 11% total output growth rate could start getting closer to the 86% growth seen in North American. If Marathon Oil can sell off the rest of its non-core assets and invest the additional cash back into American, or at the very least buy back more shares, then it could truly enhance shareholder value.

How to profit from surging domestic oil and gas production
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