Photo credit: Flickr user Paul Lowry.

Shares of EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG) are up 40% in the past year alone. This surge in the stock price has been fueled by the company's oil-based organic growth plan, which could continue to push shares up in the year ahead. Here are three key factors that could fuel further gains for investors.

Peer-leading organic crude oil production growth

There is an old saying in Texas that folks should "dance with the one that brung you." It was a favorite expression of former University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal, and to him it meant to go with the players and plays that would result in a win. For EOG Resources to keep winning it needs to continue delivering best-in-class oil production that is disciplined and focused on returns.

Since 2009, EOG Resources has grown its oil production by a compound annual rate of 39%, which is the best rate among large independent oil and gas companies. That focus on oil has more than doubled its cash margin, so the company is now earning twice as much money per barrel of oil equivalent than it did in 2010. Moreover, the company has avoided excessive debt in doing this, instead reinvesting its cash flow to fund growth. This has yielded returns on equity and capital employed that are quite simply the best in the business, as the following slide shows.

Source: EOG Resources Investor Presentation.  

As long as EOG Resources continues to focus on return-driven oil production, its stock has the potential to keep rising.

Exploration program yielding more new plays

This year, EOG Resources plans to spend $6.5 billion on exploration and development. While most of that money will be used to grow oil production, some is aimed at finding new oil-weighted plays that can fuel future growth. It spends this money to identify additional targets within its existing plays, as well as to acquire acreage to explore for new plays.

This has been money well spent, as EOG has uncovered five new oil-weighted growth plays this year. Even better, four of the five plays are expected to deliver direct after-tax rates of return above 100%. These four plays -- Parkman, Codell, Turner, and the Second Bone Spring Sand -- joined the Eagle Ford, Bakken, and Leonard as the oil plays driving EOG Resources' high rate of return growth, as noted on the following slide.

Sources: EOG Resources Investor Presentation.

New high rate of return plays like these could be the fuel to push EOG Resources' stock even higher.

Continued innovation maximizes value

In addition to exploration, EOG Resources' other big growth driver is to get more out of its current assets. EOG has focused on using technology to improve its completion designs, as well as to increase its drilling density, which allows it to drill more wells on its acreage.

By focusing on innovations that can maximize the value of its assets, EOG Resources has seen a substantial amount of growth in its core Eagle Ford shale asset. As the following slide notes, the company originally thought its position would eventually produce 900 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Sources: EOG Resources Investor Presentation. 

This slide also shows the remarkable value EOG Resources has created by focusing on optimizing its acreage. By tightening up the spacing between wells, EOG has grown the number of wells per section from five to 16. This has increased the reserves per section from 1.6 million barrels of oil equivalent to 7.2 million. This has also increased the net present value of each drilling section from $23 million to $114 million, which improved its total net potential reserves to 3.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

The Eagle Ford is just one example of EOG Resources using innovative new ways to maximize the value of its acreage. Continued innovation across the rest of its portfolio will be key in its ability to continue delivering best-in-class growth. For example, EOG estimates that its Delaware Basin position holds 1.35 billion barrels of oil equivalent. However, optimizing that play could push recoveries higher, which would give the stock a reason to keep rising.

Investor takeaway

Three keys could push EOG Resources stock higher in the future. First, it needs to continue to deliver return-focused oil production growth out of its existing assets. The company also must continue finding new plays while maximizing its existing assets. Should EOG accomplish all three goals, the stock shouldn't have much problem rising even further.