Some people love him; others loathe him. That divided opinion aside, Jim Cramer certainly does know a thing or two about stocks. While I might not personally agree with all of his calls, I will say this: He is absolutely right on his latest bullish call.
On a recent lightning round of his popular show Mad Money, Cramer called EOG Resources (EOG -3.90%) the "highest quality oil stock in America." It's a very bold call because there are a lot of terrific oil companies that are well positioned to profit from America's energy bonanza. However, it's a call that I couldn't agree with more, as EOG Resources is by far the best-positioned oil company in America. Let's take a closer look at why Cramer is dead on with this call.
Trifecta of top oil plays
America's energy boom has been led by three oil-rich shale plays, and EOG Resources is one of the few with a meaningful position in all three plays. EOG is the largest acreage holder, and a top producer in Texas' Eagle Ford Shale. It also has one of the best core positions in North Dakota's Bakken. Finally, EOG Resources has an emerging position in Texas' Permian Basin. Add it all up and EOG Resources is poised to become one of America's largest oil producers in just a few short years.
Most of EOG's peers are focused on one basin, or maybe two. For example, Continental Resources (CLR) has a top position in the Bakken, but not much else. It's starting to shift some of its attention to an emerging oil play in Oklahoma, but at this point, that's a second-tier play. Further, while Chesapeake Energy (CHKA.Q) has solid positions in the Utica, Marcellus, and Eagle Ford, its growth is more on the natural gas liquids side than higher-margin oil. Bottom line, EOG Resources has an oil resource position that is simply unmatched in America.
Its strong position in these three key basins has enabled the company to grow its oil production by an average of 43% over the past three years. This has the company simply printing money.
First mover in more than oil
Still, EOG Resources' strength is in more than just its oil position. The company was an innovator for crude-by-rail as it owns infrastructure, including loading facilities in the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and Permian, as well as unloading facilities in Oklahoma and Louisiana. That has provided it with market flexibility and access to premium-priced markets. Others, like Continental, have been forced to rely on middlemen to open up this access.
That's just the start for EOG Resources. The company also self-sources its frac sand as it owns the Cook County Sand Mine in Texas. This has kept its drilling and completion costs lower than its peers, leading to higher profits.
Getting better every day
It gets even better, because EOG Resources is getting even better. The company has continued to employ new frac technology to improve its returns. It is also becoming much more efficient. For example, the average lateral drilled in the Eagle Ford has grown from just shy of 4,000 feet to almost 5,800 feet over the past five years; yet, at the same time, average drilling days have dropped from 16.9 to just 9.6. These changes have increased its average initial production rate 20%, as well as its returns.
Peers like Chesapeake Energy are a step or two behind. For example, Chesapeake's current goal is to capture drilling efficiency gains of 15%-30% by moving to more pad drilling, and focusing on other ways to cut costs. It's also working to optimize its development and infrastructure. Meanwhile, because EOG Resources already has a lock on costs, it is now focusing on ways to improve its completions in an effort to unlock more oil from each well it drills.
EOG Resources is not only well positioned in the three best plays, but it has lower costs due to its vertical integration efforts, and is getting better every day at getting more oil out of the wells it drills. Add it all up and, as Cramer put it, EOG Resources is the highest-quality oil company in America.