Denbury Resources Inc. (DNR), Whiting Petroleum Corp (WLL): Three Solid Paths to Energy Profits

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For the past year, crude oil prices have generally traded in a band between about $85 per barrel on the low side and approaching $100 on the high side. Barring major economic or geopolitical disruptions, it appears safe to assume that black gold is unlikely to stray far from that range for the remainder of 2013.

Oil and gas producers cherish that sort of stability as they plan for their future exploration and production activities. For that reason, among others, I continue to believe that the energy sector will remain one of the more attractive groups during this year and beyond. As such, I have three especially solid energy companies that I believe Fools should consider carefully as they select the energy components of their investment portfolios.

Denbury Resources Inc. (NYSE:DNR)

Plano, Texas-based Denbury represents a truly unique way to play the strength in the U.S. oil and gas markets. The company utilizes a process called carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2 EOR), or tertiary recovery, to produce oil from wells that otherwise might have seen their last days. Through the process, carbon dioxide is injected under high pressure into the otherwise spent wells, thereby facilitating production of large percentages of the remaining oil.

The company generates its CO2 from several sources, including the largest reserves east of the Mississippi River and sizable positions in the Rocky Mountains. It also receives man-made carbon dioxide from an Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD) hydrogen plant at Port Arthur, Texas.

The expanding company, whose market capitalization sits just below $7 billion, increased the likelihood of future growth through a pair of recent transactions. Denbury Resources Inc. (NYSE:DNR)In December Denbury Resources Inc. (NYSE:DNR) sold Bakken assets to Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) for $1.3 billion. Denbury also received Exxon's interest in a pair of Texas and Wyoming fields and an interest in the larger company's CO2 reserves in yet another Wyoming field. It then purchased Cedar Creek Anticline properties in North Dakota and Montana from ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) for just over $1 billion.

Denbury Resources Inc. (NYSE:DNR), whose operating margin approaches 43%, has seen its share price increase by 13% thus far this year.

Flotek Industries Inc (NYSE:FTK)

The smallest member of the trio, with a market cap of about $815 million, Flotek operates on the services side of the energy sector. As I've previously pointed out to Fools, it also constitutes a rare instance wherein the analysts who monitor the company all accord it strong buy ratings. But with Flotek's share price having risen by more than 40% year to date, it is difficult to contest that unanimous confidence.

Flotek Industries Inc (NYSE:FTK) operates in three distinct areas. Its chemicals and logistics division provides specialty chemicals used in the stimulation, cementing, and blending of oil and gas wells. The drilling products division designs and manufactures downhole tools for the energy, mining, and water industries. Its artificial lift unit supplies pumping system components, including pumps, separators, and valves.

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