Aubrey McClendon Now Has Something Chesapeake Energy Never Had

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO's acquisition in the Permian Basin adds a new play his former employer never had. It's a play expected to double the production of basin-focused companies like Pioneer Natural Resources and Concho Resources.

Jun 10, 2014 at 4:57PM
  Chesapeake Energy Rig Site

Source: Chesapeake Energy.

For the most part, former Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) CEO Aubrey McClendon's new company has been following where he left off on the game plan he created at Chesapeake Energy. That basically meant a focus on the emerging Utica Shale in Ohio, which was a play McClendon was particularly bullish on. However, he's now taking his first steps beyond the familiar territory of the game plan he crafted at Chesapeake Energy by making a multibillion-dollar bet on the Permian Basin.

McClendon's latest wheeling and dealing
This week, the company founded by the former CEO of Chesapeake Energy announced it was spending $4.25 billion on three separate acquisitions. The first two deals total $1.75 billion and are being made in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, which are areas very familiar to McClendon, as those are core plays for Chesapeake Energy.

However, the biggest acquisition is being made in the Permian Basin. McClendon's company is shelling out $2.5 billion to buy a private company and its 63,000 net acres in the southern portion of that legacy oil play. It's a deal for an exciting new horizontal resource play that was just starting to emerge when McClendon left Chesapeake Energy.

Drilling down into the Permian Basin
While the Permian Basin is one of America's oldest and most prolific oil basins, its best days could lie ahead. According to leading Permian Basin driller Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE:PXD), the Spraberry and Wolfcamp Shale formations in the Permian Basin represent the largest oil field in America, and one of the biggest in the world. As the following slide notes, the field holds an estimated 75 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas.

Pioneer

Source: Pioneer Natural Resources.  

As that slide notes, the Permian Basin holds nearly three times the recoverable oil and gas resources as the Eagle Ford Shale, which is Chesapeake Energy's primary oil growth play. It's that oil-rich prize McClendon is after.

What's truly remarkable about the Permian Basin is just how much oil potential it possesses. Just last year, Pioneer Natural Resources estimated that the industry would recover 50 billion barrels of oil equivalent from the field. However, after another year's worth of horizontal drilling data, the company was able to substantially increase its estimate.

Looking ahead, Pioneer Natural Resources sees these two shale plays providing substantial growth for the industry. As the following slide shows, the company sees horizontal oil and gas production growing from a near flat start of less than a million barrels per day to upwards of 3.2 million barrels of oil per day in 10 years.

Permian Oil Growth Forecast

Source: Pioneer Natural Resources.

That growth will fuel substantial production and cash flow growth for Permian Basin-focused drillers. In fact, Pioneer Natural Resources sees the play doubling the company's production from 2013 levels by 2018.

Pioneer Natural Resources is not the only company that sees its production doubling over the near term. Smaller Permian Basin-focused driller Concho Resources (NYSE:CXO) recently made the decision to accelerate its drilling program to take advantage of its large acreage position in the Permian Basin. That new plan has Concho Resources on pace to double its production from 2013 levels by 2016. It's a similar theme with drillers all throughout the basin as horizontal drilling is turning out to be the game-changer that's reviving this legacy oil basin and turning it into an exciting oil growth play.

Investor takeaway
Aubrey McClendon now has a position in what could turn out to be America's best oil play. It's also a play that marks a departure of his previous game plan at Chesapeake Energy. However, given that horizontal drilling is expected to double the production of basin-focused drillers like Concho Resources and Pioneer Natural Resources over the next few years, this is an oil growth play that could really fuel results for McClendon's new company. 

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Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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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