Falling oil prices have had a noticeable impact on EOG Resources' (NYSE:EOG) stock price. As we can see in the following chart, the stock has fallen alongside oil.
However, what's interesting about that chart is that we see a bit of recovery from EOG Resources' stock even though oil prices keep heading lower. This is because investors are beginning to realize that while higher oil prices are nice, they're not the sole driver of the company's stock price. In fact, there are three reasons the stock could actually regain its former highs even if oil prices don't budge.
Triple-digit returns even at $80 oil
EOG Resources is going to make a lot of money even if oil prices remain weak. The company has some of the best horizontal crude oil assets in America, which are delivering exceptional returns even at lower oil prices. As the following slide shows, the company has several assets that can generate 100% direct after tax rates of return, even at $80 oil.
The other important point that slide notes is the fact that EOG Resources can still make money by drilling wells in some of its plays even if oil prices drop below $40 per barrel. So, clearly the company can make plenty of money in today's uncertain oil price environment.
The other thing to keep in mind is the fact that EOG Resources is constantly improving its operations to drive its well costs even lower. Over time, the company could see its returns creep up higher, enabling it to make even more money at lower oil prices.
Another factor that could drive EOG Resources' stock in the future is its exploration program. The company has a remarkable track record of finding new oil plays, which have fueled all of its growth over the past few years. In the past year alone, the company has discovered several new horizontal oil plays, four of which are in Wyoming. As the following slide points out, these discoveries have added 10 years of high-return drilling opportunities for the company.
In addition to adding future drilling locations, what these discoveries also do is add value to the company's asset base. For example, that slide noted that its Wyoming oil plays added 400 million barrels of oil equivalent to its resource potential. While these resources aren't yet proved reserves, investors do ascribe some value to a company's resource potential. So, another big resource discovery could boost the value of the company's stock given the company's strong track record of turning resources into production.
Pull value forward
EOG Resources currently has 15 years' worth of drilling inventory, which continues to expand thanks to its strong exploration program. However, not all of that inventory earns the returns that EOG Resources' investors have come to expect. One option the company could explore is to sell some of its weaker acreage, which could be much more valuable for another driller.
For example, the company has about 500 drilling locations in the Midland Basin, which, at its current pace, would take the company 50 years to drill. The reason it is not focusing on this acreage is because the returns are just 35% at current oil prices, while the rest of its acreage fetches returns north of 100%. However, for some drillers, a 35% return is exceptional. So, by monetizing what has become non-core acreage, the company could pull the value of the acreage forward and use the cash to buy back shares or accelerate its drilling program.
Thanks to its high return acreage position, EOG Resources can continue to profitably grow without higher oil prices. On top of that, the company has had remarkable success finding new low-cost oil plays to keep the growth train moving full speed ahead. Further, the company really has more opportunities than it can develop, so it could always pull value forward and monetize some acreage. Needless to say, the company has plenty of value drivers that could push the stock higher.
Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of EOG Resources. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.