Oil and gas production has been seriously ramping up in the United States. It's been a well-publicized trend, and for good reason. The United States is truly seeing a modern-day energy revolution unfold, much of which is due to the massive Permian Basin. That formation is seeing growth rates in production that exceed the overall production growth rates in the U.S., which proves what a powerful resource the region truly is.
Not surprisingly, a slew of U.S. energy companies are lining up to stake their claims in the Permian Basin, and should profit from that strategy for years to come.
Doubling down on the Permian Basin
Of the major areas of production in the United States, the EIA specifically cites the Permian Basin as a primary contributor. That's because the Permian Basin, which stretches across west Texas and New Mexico, includes a variety of thick, overlapping formations. This means that the Permian Basin holds several formations that are stacked right on top of one another. This allows for several horizontal wells to be drilled from the same location that can target the different formations at once.
These new horizontal drilling techniques are a boon for companies like Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE:PXD). That's because Pioneer Natural Resources is the largest operator in the Spraberry and Wolfcamp fields within the Permian Basin, holding roughly 900,000 acres there with more than 7,000 producing wells. Plus, successful horizontal drilling techniques have prompted Pioneer to shift a significant portion of its drilling activity from vertical to horizontal drilling, which is more capital efficient.
In all, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects strong growth in oil and gas production in the United States. Crude oil production is expected to rise by 14% this year and 9% in 2015, when production will hit 9.29 million barrels of oil per day. Meanwhile, natural gas liquids production should rise approximately 3% this year and next year, according to the EIA. Increases in oil and gas production of this magnitude are due largely to the massive Permian Basin.
This is precisely why Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY) is betting its future on the Permian Basin. Occidental is the number one oil producer in Texas and by itself accounts for approximately 16% of all oil produced there. In all, Occidental holds 2.5 million net acres in the Permian region. Going forward, it plans to concentrate there even more, with new funds available since over the past year it sold sizable interests in the Middle East and North Africa.
Likewise, Apache Corp. (NASDAQ:APA) is a major player as well, controlling more than 3.5 million gross acres in the Permian Basin. Apache has significantly shifted its operations toward the Permian Basin and away from risky international plays just like Occidental. For example, since 2009, Apache has cut its exposure to Egypt by almost half, and instead has increased its presence in the Permian Basin. The Permian Basin represented 9% of Apache's 2009 production, but that figure now stands at 21%.
Bank on the Permian Basin
As the United States increases domestic production of oil and natural gas, the nation moves ever closer to true energy independence. Massive formations such as the Permian Basin hold huge amounts of resources which are suddenly available, thanks to technological advancements that have made horizontal drilling more feasible than ever. Moreover, the relative safety of the United States makes it even more attractive to do business here, rather than in riskier geographies across the world. That's why domestic energy majors are doubling down on the Permian Basin.
This is what compels the EIA to forecast above-average production growth from the Permian Basin. Production in the region averaged 1.32 million barrels per day in 2013, and the EIA believes production at the Permian Basin will grow more than any other region in the United States through next year. That means big profits for companies who focus on the Permian Basin, such as Pioneer Natural Resources, Occidental Petroleum, and Apache Corp.
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