Eagle Ford, once an obscure name only a few years ago, has the potential to become the number one shale play in the United States.
Unfortunately for investors, there are no exchange traded funds, or ETFs, heavily weighted toward the play. So I constructed my own basket of companies titled towards the emerging formation.
Eagle Ford is growing – fast. Based on a report by the Texas Railroad Commission, March output from the formation grew 77% year-over-year to 530,000 b/d.
In fact, Eagle Ford may prove to be the biggest unconventional oil play in North America, already rivaling the North Dakota Bakken. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, initial recoverable reserve estimates exceed seven billion to ten billion barrels. That’s nearly twice the size of the Bakken.
But in addition to scale, Eagle Ford presents other advantages over the Bakken:
First – geology. Drilling costs in Eagle Ford are cheaper because the formation is shallow and brittle. A typical well costs $5.5 million versus $8 million in the Bakken.
Second – geography. Eagle Ford’s proximity to Gulf coast refineries allow producers to save as much as $40 per barrel in transit costs over Bakken producers.
Third – pricing. Production in Texas region is priced near international benchmarks like London’s Brent crude. In contrast, landlocked Bakken production is shipped by pipeline to congested terminals in Cushing, Oklahoma resulting in a big price discount.
Constructing the portfolio
In creating this fictional ETF, I narrowed the list of companies for my basket to six small and medium sized companies. Of course, this is not a exhaustive list of all stocks with Eagle Ford exposure, but only companies with best in class drilling programs or a high probability of being acquired.
First – EOG Resources Inc (NYSE:EOG) which is the largest and best positioned producer in the basin. Most of the company’s assets are in the ‘oilest’ window of the formation resulting in the most profitable operations
EOG Resources Inc (NYSE:EOG)’s drilling program has been impressive. During the first quarter, 27 new wells that came online had initial production rates above 2,500 b/d. That’s impressive for a shale play. In addition, the company boosted its estimated Eagle Ford reserves of recoverable oil from 900 billion barrels to 1.6 billion barrels by decreasing the space between each well.
EOG Resources Inc (NYSE:EOG) is by far the industry’s fastest growing independent producer with output projected to grow 28% in 2013. Management also has a track record of rewarding shareholders raising its dividend 760% over the last ten years.
Second – Sanchez Energy Corp (NYSE:SN) is the best pure-play on the Eagle Ford formation after the company was spun out of privately held Sanchez Energy Corp (NYSE:SN) Oil and Gas in 2011. Today, the company is focused almost entirely on the Eagle Ford with 95,000 net acres.