Energy investors have been freaking out and selling off oil stocks as a result of the plunge in crude oil prices. That stands in stark contrast to the composure displayed by the management teams of American oil companies. This calmness was clearly on display during EOG Resources' (NYSE:EOG) third-quarter conference call, as executives reaffirmed why they are not shaken by the oil price volatility. In fact, CEO Bill Thomas ended his prepared remarks highlighting four important takeaways that investors really need to know about the company.
First, we have talked about our key plays for a couple of years, the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Delaware Basin Leonard. Today's call has highlighted these three plays and our ability to improve our results with leading-edge completion technology. We continue to make better wells, while lowering costs with self-sourced sand and drilling efficiencies. Our excellent base of key plays keeps getting better.
Thomas reminded investors that the company's improvements enable it to earn strong returns even as oil prices weaken. He noted that EOG is using leading-edge technology to improve well results while keeping its costs lower as it self-sources its frack sand. These improvements are evident across its business as costs continue to improve. One example of this is found in the company's steadily improving lease operating expense, as shown on the following slide.
Because the company's costs continue to drop, and remain well below its peers', EOG is not as affected by falling oil prices as it would have been just a few years ago. This is why it is not that worried by recent prices.
Second, as a result of continuous productivity improvement in the Eagle Ford and Delaware basin, we have increased our oil growth target for the second time this year.
Thomas was highlighting the fact that EOG Resources has a pretty good track record of outperforming expectations. Its focus on costs and improving productivity are delivering noticeable results, and the company doesn't expect to retreat now that oil prices are weaker. Thomas was almost hinting that investors should expect the company to continue to outperform expectations given its strong track record of doing just that.
Leader in organic growth
Third, we continue to organically add new high return plays to our drilling portfolio, as well as high-grading existing plays through improved completions, enhanced targeting and the identification of sweet spots on our acreage. The Second Bone Spring Sand and Delaware Wolfcamp oil plays are good examples of this strategy. Although we are expanding our portfolio, the Eagle Ford will remain our foundation, a high return production growth driver for many years.
EOG Resources has done a phenomenal job of organically adding new high-return drilling locations. Thomas noted that these additional locations extend the company's growth beyond its core Eagle Ford shale foundation by providing the company with decades of future opportunities. As the CEO noted, in the Permian Basin alone, the company in the past year has added two new plays that can deliver 100% after-tax rates of return even at lower oil prices, as illustrated in the following slide.
Strong returns even with lower oil prices
And finally, EOG is focused on returns, and our large high-quality drilling portfolio still generates exceptional returns with $80 oil. With best-in-class horizontal crude oil assets and a strong balance sheet, EOG will continue to be a leader in absolute organic US crude oil production growth in 2015 and beyond.
Thomas concluded his key takeaways by reminding investors that EOG's portfolio can still generate very robust returns with $80 oil. He pointed out that the company has the best-in-class horizontal crude oil assets in the country to go along with a very strong balance sheet. Because of this, the company plans to continue to deliver leading organic crude oil growth even if oil prices remain in a weakened state.
EOG Resources isn't worried about lower oil prices. The company has built a leading position in the best tight oil plays in America, and that means it can enjoy robust returns even when oil prices are weak. Furthermore, the company has achieved this strong position without weakening its balance sheet because it has gotten to these plays first, and has focused on technology to keep its costs low. This is why the company remains excited about the future even as energy investors fret about lower oil prices.