Monthly dividend dynamo Enerplus (NYSE: ERF ) recently reported solid first-quarter results. Investors responded by selling off its stock. These investors missed three important numbers the company reported that suggest its future is brighter than sellers think.
64,000 barrels of oil in 26 days
Enerplus, along with industry peers like Halcon Resources (NYSE: HK ) are working on downspacing tests in the Bakken Shale of North Dakota. Success here means these companies will be able to drill more wells on their acreage in the future than current expectations. This will create more value for investors as it will keep production growing while adding to future reserves without having to spend money to acquire additional acres. That said, investors must have missed the results of Enerplus' latest downspacing test. Its Ribbon well produced 64,000 barrels of oil in its first 26 days, which averages out to around 2,500 barrels of oil per day. That was one of the company's best Bakken wells to date as noted on the following slide.
Enerplus wasn't the only company that saw strong results from downspacing tests. Halcon Resources, for example, noted that its downspacing tests in the same Fort Berthold area where Enerplus is drilling had exceptional results. Halcon Resources is in the process of putting six wells online that were drilled from a single pad and spaced at 660 feet apart. The initial production rates of the first two wells totaled 7,009 barrels of oil equivalent per day, or BOE/d, as one well set a new company record of 4,225 BOE/d. These results suggest both companies will be able to add a lot of additional future well locations through downspacing.
60,000 barrels of oil in 26 days
The other big test Enerplus is undertaking is testing the lower benches of the Three Forks formation, which is underneath the Bakken Shale in a lot of areas. Its Hognose well delivered 60,000 barrels of oil in its first 26 days, which was a record Three Forks well for Enerplus. These wells are beginning to confirm that Enerplus does have plenty of acres that are prospective for the Three Forks formation. That will enable Enerplus to join Halcon Resources and others in developing this shale alongside the Bakken. It's a big opportunity that could add years to Enerplus' drilling inventory.
15 MMcf per day
Enerplus is also seeing strong well results in its Marcellus Shale operations. The company's newest wells produced a 30 day initial production rate that averaged 15MMcf per day, with two wells achieving rates in excess of 20 MMcf per day. To put this into context, each one of Enerplus' wells produced enough gas each day to meet the needs of about 200 American homes for a full year.
Overall, Enerplus is getting better at getting more gas out of the Marcellus Shale by using tighter spacing and increasing the amount of proppants.
This improvement in production is also increasing the estimated ultimate recovery of natural gas per well, which is boosting the value and returns achieved. As that slide notes Enerplus' latest wells are on pace to deliver internal rates of return in excess of 72%.
As Enerplus is now seeing, high rate natural gas wells in the Marcellus can really move the needle. Companies like Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE: COG ) have found that the best spots in the Marcellus can deliver rates of returns in the triple digits as the following slide notes.
While Cabot Oil & Gas found one of the best drilling locations in America, that's not stopping it from working to improve its already great well results. As that slide notes the company is planning to drill longer laterals in 2014, which could yield more upside to each well. That upside potential could follow Enerplus as its well completions continue to evolve.
Enerplus might not have delivered the perfect quarter, but there's still a lot to like about the company. Its most recent shale well results top that list as the company is seeing improvement in both of its core growth plays. Those are numbers that far too many investors are missing.
The secret to great energy dividends
Enerplus pays a pretty solid dividend fueled by its oil and gas production. However, it's dividend isn't what it used to be as Canada took away a special tax "loophole" that had been fueling its dividend for years. The IRS, on the other hand, isn't about to take away the dividend punch bowl from American companies as it is allowing a "loophole" that's helping line investor's pockets with cash. In fact, the IRS wants investors in a few select investments so badly that it is "Daring You To Make This Energy Investment." Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free.