Investors should pay close attention to what's happening in the Eagle Ford formation in the United States. The domestic oil and gas boom is thanks in no small part to the role Eagle Ford stands to play. That's because the Eagle Ford shale, located in Texas, is simply an ocean of oil and natural gas. Production from the region has skyrocketed in recent years due to huge supply that is now more recoverable than ever due to advanced drilling techniques.
Not surprisingly, a slew of companies are lining up to stake their claims in the Eagle Ford shale. Investors have a lot to be optimistic about for the foreseeable future, due to the huge potential of the Eagle Ford formation. In particular, EOG Resources (EOG -2.33%), Devon Energy (DVN -4.07%), and Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD -3.29%) stand to be three of the biggest beneficiaries. That's why their investors should keep close tabs on what happens at Eagle Ford over the next several quarters.
Booming production at Eagle Ford
Production growth from the Eagle Ford shale in just a few years is remarkable, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Eagle Ford did not even see significant drilling until 2009. Since that time, the region has developed into one of the highest-producing onshore plays in the entire country. That's why EOG Resources is the largest crude oil producer in the Eagle Ford region. EOG produced a 38% compound annual growth rate of oil production over the past six years. Much of this is due to EOG's significant acreage position in the Eagle Ford.
Oil production from the Eagle Ford first reached 200,000 barrels per day in mid-2011. From there, production has skyrocketed. The EIA calculates that production neared 1 million barrels per day last June. Such profound growth, and the corresponding profit potential, is precisely why Devon Energy acquired $6 billion worth of assets in the Eagle Ford region last November. The asset quality is very high, since the development is self-funding and already generates significant cash flow. In fact, management expects the deal to be immediately accretive to shareholders. Devon's 2014 cash flow per share is projected to increase by 5% as a result of the acquisition.
All this increased drilling and production activity is sure to result in a wave of cash. Pioneer Natural Resources expects to generate approximately $2.3 billion in operating cash flow in 2014. That's due to Pioneer's decision to double-down on Eagle Ford. Pioneer divested a significant amount of assets in other parts of the U.S. last year to reinvest into Eagle Ford development. Pioneer sold $350 million worth of assets in Alaska, and expects to generate an additional $100 million from other asset divestitures going forward.
In turn, Pioneer plans to allocate proceeds to increase its footprint in the Eagle Ford due to its success there. Pioneer grew its Eagle Ford shale oil production by 35% last year. Going forward, the trend will continue. Pioneer has 45 new Upper Eagle Ford shale wells planned for 2014.
Bank on Eagle Ford
As the oil and gas boom in the United States proceeds, the Eagle Ford onshore development is set to play a very significant role. Oil and gas drilling only recently began, in 2009. The Energy Information Administration predicts that the region recently eclipsed 1 million barrels per day. For Eagle Ford to reach that level, which makes it only the fourth in the United States to do so, is evidence enough of its potential.
Not surprisingly, a number of exploration and production companies are lining up to stake their claims at Eagle Ford. Remarkable production growth is expected to continue, which will produce strong cash flows for EOG Resources, Devon Energy, and Pioneer Natural Resources for many years.