Energy prices were robust again for the quarter, with comparable gas prices rising by nearly one-fourth, but production is the real story here. Ultra Petroleum boosted its gas production by about 54%, while oil production was up over 600% (though from a very small base). For the entire quarter, Ultra Petroleum produced about 17.7 billion cubic feet of gas equivalent (meaning gas and oil).
The company continues to pump more energy more profitably. While production climbed 84% in the quarter, operating costs rose less than 20% per billion cubic feet of gas equivalent. What's more, costs not related to production (including SG&A, stock compensation, and interest) compose only 13% of total operating costs. This is a lean, mean, energy-producing machine.
While production figures will probably jump around a bit from quarter to quarter, I think that Ultra Petroleum is still in a position to increase production for some time. New areas are coming on line, and the company continues to work on securing approval for denser well-spacing in its Wyoming gas fields. With rivals like Encana
Qualitatively, I love Ultra Petroleum. It may be the best midsized independent gas and oil producer running these days. Quantitatively, though, I can't be so positive. I love Ultra's very high reserves, great production targets, and excellent production costs. But I'm having trouble working out a valuation scenario that meets my usual risk/reward standards and gives me the potential for market-beating returns.
If you're looking for excellence in energy production, this is a good place to start. If you're looking for a rock-bottom bargain, try drilling elsewhere.
Gas up on more Foolish energy takes:
- Schlumberger Is No Schlub
- Playing the Russian Shell Game
- Bolivia's Gas Pains
- Going to Ultra Petroleum's Well
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).