The oil and gas boom in the United States is truly something to behold. This is thanks in large part to abundant domestic supplies, as well as new drilling techniques that are resulting in huge production of previously untapped supplies.
One huge important area for domestic oil drilling is the Permian Basin. It's no surprise then, why energy companies of all shapes and sizes are lining up to capitalize on the ocean of oil sitting underneath the Permian field.
If you're thinking about investing in the energy space, the integrated super-majors probably come to mind. But for investors willing to drill a bit deeper, there are some smaller energy companies like Pioneer Resources (NYSE:PXD), Apache Corp. (NYSE:APA), and Concho Resources (NYSE:CXO) that are ramping up production in the Permian Basin.
Drilling down into the Spraberry/Wolfcamp oil field
Of the U.S.'s four highest-producing regions, three of them are onshore fields, including the Permian Basin in west Texas and New Mexico. Total average production from the Permian Basin stands at over one million barrels per day. Within the Permian Basin lies the massive Spraberry/Wolfcamp oil field, which is becoming increasingly important for operators in the region.
Pioneer Resources, Apache, and Concho Resources comprise the top three producers in the Spraberry/Wolfcamp field. They lead the pack in average daily production there, which is a wise move given the tantalizing potential.
Pioneer's Permian position represents a core asset for Pioneer, since it operates 35 rigs there, 24 of which are horizontal and 11 vertical. Pioneer's average production stands at 93,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day. That makes Pioneer the largest producer at the Spraberry/Wolfcamp development. And, since its production from this field represented 58% of its total production last year, it's clear how important the area is to Pioneer.
For its part, Apache produces 51,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day from Spraberry/Wolfcamp, approximately 10% of its total production. Apache has taken drastic steps to restructure its portfolio toward higher-margin liquids and North American onshore production more broadly. In 2009, Apache derived 50% of its production from liquids, and in terms of geographic focus, only generated 10% of its production from the Permian Basin. Last year, those figures were 58% liquids and 23% of production from the Permian Basin.
Concho's average production stands at 37,000 barrels per day from the Spraberry/Wolfcamp field. Concho operates almost exclusively in the Permian Basin, and its success there resulted in a 20% increase in oil-weighted production from continuing operations last year.
Even greater production in store
Despite the fact that these three companies hold massive operations in the Permian Basin, they don't plan on sitting still in 2014. Each of them plans additional investment in the region this year, to keep capitalizing on the available resources. For example, Pioneer expects to allocate $3 billion to drilling capital this year, a full $2.3 billion, or 76%, of which will be spent on further development of the Spraberry/Wolfcamp site.
Apache and Concho have big plans for the Permian Basin as well. Apache expects overall growth of at least 15% in its North American liquids production. This will be driven by oil, due mostly to its Permian Basin exposure. Of its $8.5 billion in planned exploration and production capital expenditures this year, $2.6 billion, or 30%, will be allocated to the Permian Basin.
Concho recently experienced drilling success in its Delaware Basin positions, and is on track to transition to a full-scale horizontal development program. Positive results on these initiatives are what compel Concho to expect production to double by year-end 2016. This year, the company projects another year of 20% production growth.
Bet on the Permian Basin
The oil and gas boom in the United States is going strong, thanks in no small part to the Permian Basin stretching across Texas and New Mexico. In particular, the Spraberry/Wolfcamp oil field is home to a huge amount of oil, and that's where these energy companies are staking their claims.
Pioneer Resources, Apache, and Concho all derive significant portions of their overall production from the Permian Basin. They are each major acreage holders there, and as a symbol of their ongoing commitment to the region, they're devoting even greater investment to the area this year.
If oil prices stay supportive at or near $100 per barrel in the United States, the payoff from their Permian-based production should be tremendous.