A Chip Off the Old Chesapeake

SandRidge Energy (NYSE: SD  ) is probably one of the larger American natural gas companies you've never heard of. Unlike Southwestern Energy (NYSE: SWN  ) or Range Resources (NYSE: RRC  ) , there's not a single sexy shale play to be found in the company's asset portfolio. No wonder there's not a lot of buzz here -- not yet, anyway.

Just because SandRidge is targeting somewhat run-of-the-mill prospects, the management here is anything but. Tom Ward invested heavily in the company in 2006, before joining it as chairman/CEO and taking SandRidge public. Ward is a co-founder and 17-year veteran of Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) , a company you have heard of, if you've followed our energy musings.

Here's one reason Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon is a Foolish legend. Our insider-buying investigator Tim Beyers has documented McClendon's large share purchases countless timesover the years. I'm happy to report that Tom Ward is cut from the same cloth.

In March, Ward announced his intent to purchase up to $100 million worth of SandRidge stock in the open market this year. That may be a drop in the bucket compared with his existing stake in the company (around $1.7 billion), but really -- how often do you see this kind of commitment?

As for the assets and the corporate strategy, there's plenty to like here. SandRidge is hyper-focused on a region it calls the West Texas Overthrust (WTO). The company just sold some non-core Rockies assets to Williams (NYSE: WMB  ) to free up capital, and about 70% of its aggressive spending this year will go toward the WTO. Because SandRidge owns a large fleet of rigs, drilling won't be dampened by the rising dayrates recently reported by Grey Wolf (AMEX: GW  ) and Patterson-UTI (Nasdaq: PTEN  ) .

I know it's easy for these exploration and production companies to blur together, unless you're an industry insider or an energy stock junkie (ahem). So here's another differentiator: Some of SandRidge's natural gas targets are rich in carbon dioxide, which is useful in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations. Given the company's proximity to the country's most active EOR region, this produced CO2 should prove highly profitable for SandRidge.

As mentioned, the company's development plan is aggressive -- with about $1.5 billion of capital spending budgeted for the full year. To ensure adequate cash flows during this ramp-up, the company has employed extensive hedges. In a sense, this makes a SandRidge investment more of a bet on execution and growth than a play on rising natural gas prices. This ought to appeal to Fools looking for energy exposure, without the price-squiggle-induced indigestion.

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