The Bakken Shale formation has the potential to become one of the top oil producing fields in the world. Daily production has already reached more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day; if the play can top a million it would join just a handful of fields worldwide that hit that mark. There's no question that the Bakken is changing America's energy equation.
That being said, the big concern is in the rapid decline rates from the industry's wells. This has some questioning the plays staying power. As an investor how do you gain access to this prolific play without risking everything if it doesn't pan out? I have three producers that balance both Bakken production potential with the global diversification needed to ensure your investment never runs dry.
It's not a sprint, it's a marathon
If you're looking for production growth, Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) certainly has it. The company grew its Bakken production nearly 50% in 2012. It did so by growing production from 24,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in December 2011 to 35,000 Boe/d by the end of 2012. Even better is that the company's production is very oily with 90% oil and 5% each for natural gas and natural gas liquids.
What's important for investors is that in addition to its more than 400,000 Bakken acres the company also has large positions in the Gulf of Mexico, the Eagle Ford, and in the Midcontinent. That's not all; the company's global portfolio includes positions in Africa, the North Sea, and the Middle East. Needless to say, investors are well-insulated if the Bakken falls short.
Filling up with production growth
The same can be said of Conoco Phillips (NYSE:COP) which ended 2012 right where Marathon began at 24,000 Boe/d of production. There is much more on the way as the company has over 30 wells that were drilled and awaiting completion, while almost 15 are awaiting gathering infrastructure. Takeaway capacity has been a problem within the industry but the increase in crude being shipped by rail has really helped.
This of course is good news for ConocoPhillips as the company develops its drilling inventory of 1,200 gross locations. It believes that it can capture more than 400 million barrels of resource potential from the play. Like Marathon, the company has a global production base that includes the oil sands of Canada, as well as the North Sea, Malaysia, and Australia.
To the Bakken and beyond
Finally, investors could consider Hess (NYSE:HES). Like ConocoPhillips, the company is getting out of the refining business and focusing its efforts on exploration and production. In the Bakken it has a 67% working interest on about 800,000 net acres and is planning to reach 120,000 Boe/d of production in the future.
Aside from its Bakken assets, the company has a large world wide operation with positions in the Gulf of Mexio and off the coast of Africa among many others. In fact, just a third of the company's production is in the U.S., giving Hess investors a taste of the Bakken as well as upside from a number of other opportunities.
My Foolish take
Personally, I like ConocoPhillips as I believe its soon-to-be-completed repositioning program has shares trading at a deep value. Others' mileage my vary and there are of course many ways to get the Bakken's growth into your portfolio. If you're not too concerned about the decline rates your best bet might be to invest in a more pure-play Bakken operator.
Fool contributor Matt DiLallo owns shares of ConocoPhillips. 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.