Apache's Beautiful Balance

The second quarter was relatively kind to oil and gas producer Apache (NYSE: APA  ) . While certain peers like XTO Energy (NYSE: XTO  ) may prove to have pulled down higher prices thanks to favorable hedging arrangements, I don't think anyone can boast of the natural portfolio balance that saved Apache's skin.

The thing is, most of the so-called independents -- the large E&Ps without refining and marketing businesses -- are quite levered to North America, or natural gas, or both. Apache sports both a more international and oily product mix.

Consider the sad state of North American natural gas. Industrial demand continues to slump, and curtailments by the likes of Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) have yet to take much of a bite out of production growth. Apache thus saw its price realizations (i.e., sales net of hedging effects) drop 16% from an already depressed first quarter.

The thing is, over 40% of Apache's gas production pie came from outside North America this quarter, and that fast-growing slice saw an 8% sequential increase in price. Oil production, which comprises 48% of Apache's output, is an even bigger differentiator. With the increase in crude prices this quarter, Apache saw oil and liquids revenue jump 45% sequentially.

The much stronger economics of oil production are motivating some peers, like EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG  ) , to shift to a more balanced mix. That outfit, which produced 75% gas in 2007, is targeting a 50/50 gas and liquids split by 2013. Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC  ) should also see an improvement in its mix as it brings on more deepwater projects, but the firm was about 64% gas-weighted as of the first quarter. 

For now, Apache's balance is yet another reason that this firm stands out among the U.S. independents.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. Chesapeake Energy is an Inside Value recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Chesapeake and XTO. The Motley Fool has a balanced disclosure policy.


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