Here's How Devon Energy's Strategic Transformation Is Really Paying Off

Last year, oil and gas production major Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN  ) set in motion a series of steps designed to focus its operations. It embarked on a path of monetizing billions of dollars' worth of assets deemed non-critical to its future growth priorities. Specifically, the company is betting heavily on domestic oil production. While it may seem unwise to take such drastic steps to focus its portfolio on one asset class, Devon management deserves a lot of credit. That's because its moves have paid off handsomely for the company and its investors.

Devon Energy's 2013 production in review
Devon's strategic initiatives have clearly paid off in terms of soaring production. Its results were squarely the result of booming oil and gas production, particularly at the highly promising U.S. fields, including the Permian Basin.

Overall, Devon's oil production set a new quarterly record of 177,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter. This represented a 17% increase year over year. The company's massive Permian Basin operations were the primary contributor. Production there rose to 86,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter, a 29% increase versus the same quarter the year prior. Another domestic field in which Devon holds a sizable presence is the Anadarko Basin. Its production there reached a record in the fourth quarter of 85,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day. This represented a 10% increase year over year.

Devon's total oil and gas production last year rose to 696,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, which beat the company's own forecast by 6,000 barrels of oil equivalent.

Growth is head and shoulders above the rest
Devon Energy's striking production growth, particularly in the United States, stands well above the production growth of its closest peers. Exploration and production majors ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) and Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY  ) are doing well for themselves and are both increasing their domestic production. But their growth figures look fairly ordinary when compared to Devon's results. 

ConocoPhillips increased overall production by 7% in the Lower 48 states and Latin America last year, including 24% growth in U.S. oil production. The U.S. was a bright spot and led the way, but international operations dragged down Conoco's overall results. Total oil and gas production in 2013 dropped to 1.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day from 1.52 million barrels of oil equivalents the year prior.

Conoco's adjusted earnings rose 6% last year. Going forward, Conoco expects fairly modest production growth. Management's long-term growth forecast calls for 3% to 5% production growth over the next several years.

Meanwhile, Occidental Petroleum increased its U.S. oil production by 4% last year, which is solid yet unspectacular performance. And, Occidental's adjusted earnings actually fell by nearly 2% last year. While it's clear that both Conoco and Occidental are committed to oil and gas production growth, it's also apparent that Devon Energy has extremely ambitious plans.

Why Devon's domination is set to continue
In the future, Devon plans to keep ramping up production, which will be led by U.S. oil. Devon bought $6 billion worth of assets in the Eagle Ford region, one of the most productive fields in the United States. The U.S. Energy Information Administration calculates that total production at Eagle Ford recently reached one million barrels per day, which makes Eagle Ford one of only three onshore fields to reach that level of production.

While other exploration and production majors, including ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum, are also growing production, their results look fairly unimpressive when compared to Devon Energy's. Devon was highly successful last year expanding its footprint in the U.S., thanks to its operations in the Permian Basin. The company's domestic domination should only continue this year and beyond, thanks to its aggressive acquisition of assets in the Eagle Ford shale as well as continued expansion in its existing operations.

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