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4 Bakken Stocks at the Leading Edge of the Shale Oil Revolution

By Chad Fraser on August 24, 2013

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Oil production from the Bakken shale, a 200,000-square mile rock formation that lies below Montana, North Dakota and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, continues to rise at a breathtaking pace. 

Below we’ll examine four Bakken stocks that are at the forefront of the area’s stunning growth. But first, here’s a look at some of the latest production data.

Between January 2011 and January 2013, the Bakken’s crude output more than doubled—to 673,000 barrels a day (bpd) from just 274,000. In June 2013, output hit a record 756,980 bpd. That’s a far cry from a mere 70,000 bpd back in 2008. 

In April, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the Bakken and Three Forks formations (Three Forks lies underneath the Bakken) hold a total of 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil. That’s more than double the previous estimate, though many energy experts feel this number is understated.

Thanks in large part to the Bakken’s surging output, the U.S. continues to march toward energy independence: according to Bloomberg, the country met 87% of its energy needs through the early months of 2013, the highest rate since 1985. 

The trigger for the shale oil production surge has been advances in drilling technology, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, usually referred to as fracking, which involves pumping water and other chemicals deep underground to crack open shale rock and release the oil and gas.

Four Bakken Stocks to Watch 

Here’s a look at four Bakken stocks that are benefiting as shale oil remakes the country’s energy future. A little further on, we’ll look at some of the challenges the region continues to face, as well as its future prospects.

  • EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG) is the fifth largest non-integrated oil and gas company in the U.S. and one of the top five Bakken stocks by oil and gas production. It’s also the largest oil producer in the Eagle Ford formation in Texas.

    The company is by far the largest horizontal crude oil producer in the U.S., with nearly 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil produced by horizontal drilling at the end of 2012. EOG increased its crude and condensate output by 39% last year.
  • Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR) is a pioneer among Bakken stocks. It was the first to complete a horizontal well in the Three Forks formation, and to date the company has drilled about 20% of all Three Forks wells. Today, Continental is the largest leaseholder and oil producer in the Bakken, with more than 1.1 million acres leased.

  • Whiting Petroleum (NYSE: WLL) is the second-largest oil producer in North Dakota, averaging 82,500 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) of production in 2012 across more than 700,000 acres of leased land. 
  • Oasis Petroleum (NYSE: OAS) is a pure Bakken/Three Forks play, with 335,000 leased acres in the Williston Basin. Oasis has only been a public company for three years, but the share price has risen 143% since its 2010 IPO.

    In 2012 the Bakken stock’s output was 22,500 boe per day, more than double its 2011 production. The company’s proved reserves at the end of 2012 were 143 million boe, up from 79 million boe at the end of 2011.

Bakken Stocks Still Face Challenges

In addition to the usual concerns involved with oil and gas production—such as severe weather, which slowed the Bakken’s production growth to 52,820 bpd over the first six months of 2013 from 128,030 a year ago—Bakken producers face some unique challenges.

One is a dearth of transportation infrastructure, mainly pipelines. That has forced them rely on rail shipments , a more expensive option and one that has raised safety concerns in the wake of the derailment and explosion of a train carrying Bakken crude in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

However, infrastructure is rapidly being added, including Enbridge’s (NYSE: ENB) recently completed Bakken Pipeline expansion, which added 145,000 bpd of capacity, and the company’s new Berthold rail facility, which brings an additional 80,000.

Shale oil and gas (mainly fracturing) also faces environmental concerns, in particular that fracking chemicals could contaminate water supplies.

Nonetheless, the Bakken’s strong growth looks set to continue, with analysts forecasting that 33,000 wells will be drilled there in the next 20 years, with more than 5,000 completed by 2015 alone.

 

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