Photo credit: Marathon Oil Corporation 

Penn Virginia Corporation (NYSE: PVA) recently reported fourth-quarter and full-year earnings. While its earnings results were slightly less than Wall Street was expecting, earnings aren't what matters for the company at this stage. So, let's take a closer look at what matters most at Penn Virginia.

The numbers that matter
At its core, Penn Virginia is an Eagle Ford Shale growth story. That story remains very much intact. The company's Eagle Ford Shale production averaged 13,111 barrels of oil equivalent per day, or BOE/d. that's up 5% from just the prior quarter. Further, oil production alone was up 7% on the quarter as the company's more valuable oil production is growing faster than overall production. Right now 81% of the company's production in the Eagle Ford Shale is oil.


Photo credit: ConocoPhillips 

That growth isn't about to slow down anytime soon. This year the company sees its oil production growing 66%-78% as it focuses on the oil rich Eagle Ford Shale. Further, Penn Virginia has continued to grow its position in the play in order to extend its growth opportunities. To that end the company expanded its acreage position by 19% and it now controls 80,000 net acres. Further, it increased its drilling inventory by 26% to 1,125 future drilling locations. That's enough of an inventory to drill for the next 10 years.

Putting it into perspective
Penn Virginia has one of the more compelling positions in the Eagle Ford Shale. Its acreage is very oil rich as evidenced by the fact that 81% of its production is oil. Production from a peer like Marathon Oil Corporation (MRO -0.81%) is only 65% oil, while the rest of its production is split between natural gas and NGLs. Not only that but Marathon Oil already produces 100,000 BOE/d from the Eagle Ford Shale, so because of its sheer size its overall growth potential from the play is much more limited.

The same can be said of ConocoPhillips (COP -0.34%). Its production in the Eagle Ford Shale already achieved a peak daily rate of 141,000 BOE/d. Not only that but because of its massive size ConocoPhillips is happy to deliver overall production growth averaging 3%-5% annually. Penn Virginia grew its production that much last quarter alone. While the Eagle Ford Shale is a big part of ConocoPhillips' growth plan, it's still not the rocket fuel that it is to Penn Virginia.

Investor takeaway
Investors looking for a pure-play on the growth of the Eagle Ford Shale have few better choices than Penn Virginia Corporation. While the stock certainly carries risk due to its debt levels and how it funds its capital plan, that aggressive bet could pay off big time as its oil rich Eagle Ford Shale acres begin to pay off.

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