At the end of 2012, oil production in the state of Texas had reached a level not seen since the late 1990s. The state was cranking out more than 2.2 million barrels per day in December, accounting for roughly 31% of all U.S. oil production. This resurgence can present an opportunity for investors, and with that in mind today we will take a look at the five top producers in the great state of Texas.

The list
The most important thing about the 2012 list is that it did not look the same in 2011. The emergence of the Eagle Ford Shale in East Texas, and the application of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in certain segments of the Permian Basin has caused some changes:


Avg. Daily


% State

Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY)


42.7 M


EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG)


40.1 M


Pioneer Natural


22.8 M


Apache (NYSE:APA)


21.1 M


Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (UNKNOWN:KMP.DL)


18.9 M


Source: Texas Railroad Commission 

In 2011, all of these companies were on the list, but in a different order. Kinder Morgan ranked second then, but almost failed to rank this year, and no one outside of Occidental was posting production numbers over 52,000 barrels per day, let alone 100,000. Things will continue to change, no doubt, so let's take a closer look at what these companies are up to.

The players
Occidental Petroleum is the top producer in the Permian Basin. The company has mastered the art of using carbon dioxide in tertiary recovery to increase well production by 15%-25% in certain fields. Kinder Morgan, aside from using CO2 to produce oil and natural gas liquids, sources and distributes the gas to other producers in the play. If you're looking for a diversified operator in the Permian, that's the company for you.

Apache is another Permian player with the potential to rise up on this list next year. The chart above reflects an annual average number for daily production, but by the end of 2012 Apache was producing 134,123 barrels per day in the Permian. While some of that production was outside of Texas on the New Mexico side, the company has really ramped up its growth in the Texas shale portion of the Permian. 

Pioneer Natural Resources is double dipping, exploiting both the Permian and the Eagle Ford for its benefit. The company is really doing it all right now, as far as drilling goes. It is focused on vertical wells in the Spraberry section of the Permian, horizontal wells in the Wolfcamp region of the same play, and of course horizontal wells in the Eagle Ford. If you include the state's Barnett Shale, the company plans to spend about $2.4 billion drilling in Texas this year. 

EOG Resources is the top producer in the Eagle Ford Shale, and has no intention of relinquishing that title. The company plans to drill 400 wells there this year in an effort to ramp up its already impressive production numbers.

Foolish takeaway
We tend to think of the oil companies as a group of slow-moving behemoths, but in fact the industry is quite dynamic. A company that is on top today may not remain there tomorrow, and the Texas oil production story is a great reminder of that fact.