A few weeks ago, Al Gore advised Americans to avoid oil stocks because the "carbon assets," that is oil and natural gas, owned by publicly traded companies are overvalued. Gore believes "this carbon bubble is going to burst." When my wife heard this, she suspected Gore of ulterior motives. I'm inclined to agree. Foolish contributor, Matt DiLallo recently responded to Gore's remarks by showing how much longer our "carbon bubble" might last and recommended three oil-related stocks to buy instead. I'd like to offer three companies that I think will do well in the carbon asset, ahem, oil and gas business.
Finding energy across the globe
Be it natural gas or crude oil, be it in the U.S., Gulf of Mexico, or a foreign country, Noble Energy (NYSE:NBL) seeks and generally finds hydrocarbon resources. For example, its Niobora oil play is believed to contain over 2 billion barrels of oil. Even better, production costs are less than or equal to those of the Bakken or Eagle Ford plays. Overseas, Noble discovered crude oil off the coast of both Cameroon and Equatorial New Guinea, and these assets are contributing to the company's bottom line.
Natural gas discoveries contribute to Noble's revenue as well. The biggest finds are the Tamar, Karish, and Leviathan gas fields off the Israeli coast. Gas from the Tamar has already come ashore within four years of its discovery. In the U.S., Noble produces natural gas from the low-cost Marcellus shale and the DJ Basin on Colorado. This past quarter alone saw a 16% increase in natural gas production.
As an investment, Noble represents a growth stock as its dividend yields less than 1%. And grown it has; the stock climbed almost 50% in the past year. Not only is Noble finding more oil and gas, the company is focusing on production costs and divestiture of non-core assets. These efforts to grow production and reduce costs should reward investors well.
Low-cost natural gas for years to come
Currently boasting over 3 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas and liquids reserves, Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE:COG) provides proof that a "carbon bubble" isn't bursting for a while. Production in July 2013 reached 1.2 billion cubic feet a day while production costs declined from the year before. All told, at current production levels, Cabot has enough gas to last more than 25 years. These reserves have been steadily growing and are projected to continue growing.
Cabot anticipates not only reserve growth, but production growth by over 40% in the future. Even better for investors, the improved production costs achieved over the past year should continue in the years to come. The current breakeven point for Cabot is less than $1.20/Mcf; this means Cabot can make money despite low natural gas prices. The trend toward lower production costs suggests an even lower breakeven point down the road.
This past quarter saw Cabot's earnings and cash flow increased over the third quarter of 2012. No surprise, production was 61% higher than last year's results. Nine month results for 2013 also convincingly topped 2012's results. Sale of non-core assets in Texas signaled a continuing trend for Cabot to focus on its Marcellus operations.
Moving energy from the field to the market
Producing oil or gas in the U.S. is wonderful, but somehow that energy needs to get to a refinery. Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD) does that and does it well. In addition to connecting various Texas and Southern U.S. oil fields to Gulf Coast refineries, Enterprise also connects natural gas liquids from the Midwest and Pennsylvania to the Gulf Coast. The growing oil production in Colorado has Enterprise expanding into that play.
Enterprise also operates pipelines and other assets for the export market. Specifically, the company operates a natural gas liquids import/export facility at the Houston Ship Channel. Enterprise currently is expanding this facility to increase its capacity by three cargoes a month by early 2015. This is in addition to a previous expansion completed this past March. This looks to be a lucrative business as Enterprise is contracted out through 2015.
More exports are on the horizon. Enterprise has interests in three different pipeline assets connected to two Texas coast terminals. These assets will export refined products with an eye toward the Central and South American markets. The first of these terminals should come online in the first quarter of 2014, the other three to six months later.
Final Foolish thoughts
It's a free country, and Al Gore can express his opinions on the matter of future U.S. energy production and use. And you are free to agree or not. If you doubt the U.S. "carbon bubble" will soon burst, these three companies are worth considering.
For capital gains, Noble wins hands down in my book. Its growing production, diversified assets, and focus on cost reductions should pay off for years. Enterprise is the one for long-term, safe income with room for capital gains. Oil and gas production won't slow anytime soon, and Enterprise is well positioned to capitalize. Cabot is a bit expensive for me, especially considering the price of natural gas. The company continues growing production and reducing costs, but the market, in my opinion, has priced that in.