After a few down years, the oil industry is returning to growth mode this year. In fact, oil companies in the U.S. are on pace for such a gusher of new output that the country is on track to produce an average of 10.8 million barrels of oil per day (BPD) in 2018, which would shatter the record of 9.6 million BPD set in 1970.

Although nearly the entire industry is growing production this year, three oil stocks stand out due to their extraordinary growth rates: Centennial Resource Development (NASDAQ:CDEV), Parsley Energy (NYSE:PE), and Diamondback Energy (NASDAQ:FANG). They could all fuel big-time returns for investors, especially if oil prices keep rising.

Still in the early innings

Centennial Resource Development's stock is already up more than 70% since new management took over in late 2016, which is more than double the return of the S&P 500 over that time frame. After quickly building a prime position in the oil-rich Permian Basin, management was able to grow Centennial's oil volumes a jaw-dropping 233% last year to an average of 19,161 BPD.

While the company won't continue to expand that fast, it still anticipates boosting oil output another 85% in 2018 and growing at a high rate through 2020, when production should average 65,000 BPD. That has it on pace to deliver peer-leading growth over the next several years.

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Centennial's impressive top-line growth has helped fuel even more spectacular earnings growth, which has expanded 330% over the past year. Two other factors have helped fuel that accelerated pace: higher oil prices and the company's ability to drive down costs 23% by spreading expenses across more barrels. These catalysts have the potential to continue fueling accelerated profit growth, which could enable Centennial Resource Development to keep delivering market-smashing returns in the coming years.

The fuel to continue cruising

Diamondback Energy's stock has rocketed more than 600% since its initial public offering (IPO) in late 2012. Not only has that return trounced the S&P 500's 100% gain over that period, but it came amid one of the oil market's worst downturns in decades. Fueling Diamondback's fast-paced growth has been its ability to make needle-moving acquisitions and drill high-return wells in the Permian Basin, which have helped grow earnings 700% since its IPO, even though oil prices are down about 30% over that time frame.

Diamondback expects to keep delivering high-octane growth in 2018 and is currently on pace to grow production another 40%. With oil prices on the rise and its costs per barrel falling as it increases scale, earnings should expand at an even faster pace. Meanwhile, the company has a vast drilling inventory left to develop, and is always on the prowl for its next needle-moving deal. These factors could provide Diamondback with the fuel to continue its market-smashing pace in the years to come.

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A little behind, but plenty of fuel to pull ahead

Parsley Energy's stock hasn't performed quite as well as its rivals', gaining only about 40% since its IPO in 2014, against a 50% return for the S&P 500. However, considering that it went public just as oil prices began to crash -- and that crude is still more than 30% below its level at the IPO -- shares have performed remarkably well. Driving those gains are the same fuels that have helped Centennial and Diamondback: its focus on acquiring land in the Permian and then drilling high-rate wells as fast as it can, which has helped fuel a 16% compound quarterly growth rate in oil production in the 16 quarters since its IPO.

Parsley Energy expects to grow its oil output another 50% this year, which should fuel even faster profit growth, due to higher oil prices and its ability to spread costs across more barrels. Meanwhile, like Diamondback and Centennial, it has a huge supply of high-return drilling locations remaining, which can drive high-rate growth in the coming years. That should provide the company with plenty of fuel to grow earnings at a brisk pace, potentially igniting market-beating performance.

The recipe for big-time returns

While oil prices have been down in recent years, that hasn't prevented these oil stocks from growing earnings at breakneck speed. That's because they've focused their attention on building a large-scale position in the heart of the fast-growing Permian Basin, which has enabled them to continue growing production and earnings even at lower oil prices.

Now that oil is on the rise, these oil stocks have one more catalyst to help them drive high-octane returns in the coming years. Investors should, at the very least, put them on their watchlists.

Matthew DiLallo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.