Higher Ground - Oil-Weighted E&Ps Anticipating Surge in Capital Spending in 2017

The 21 oil-focused U.S. exploration and production companies examined in our Piranha! market study are planning an average 47% increase in their 2017 capital expenditures and expecting a 7% increase in production. The 47% boost in capex is huge, but due to draconian cuts in 2015 and 2016 this year’s total is still off 58% from 2014’s—an indication of the big hole the sector is still climbing out of. The Permian Basin continues to attract more capital—no surprise there—but capex in the Bakken is also on the rise after a few lean years. Today we continue our Piranha! series on upstream spending in the oil and natural gas sector, this time zeroing in on E&Ps that focus on crude.

U.S. oil and natural gas exploration and production companies, anticipating continuing low crude oil and natural gas prices, have been reshaping their portfolios to focus on a half-dozen top-notch resource plays whose production economics can hold up even through the roughest of patches. The biggest of these asset purchases and sales grab the headlines, but countless other, smaller deals are having profound effects too. Taken together, this piranha-like devouring of E&P assets in the Permian, the SCOOP/STACK and other key production areas is transforming who owns what in the plays that matter most, and positioning a select group of E&Ps for success.

We examine this ongoing transformation in Piranha!, our new market study of 43 representative U.S. E&Ps; of that total universe of companies, 21 focus on oil (60%+ liquids reserves), nine are gas-weighted producers (60%+ natural gas reserves) and 13 are diversified producers. All of the major U.S. shale/unconventional plays are represented in the combined portfolios of these firms. In Very Particular Places to Go, we discussed Piranha!’s purpose and organization. The first part of the four-part market study examines the strategies that companies are adopting to thrive in a $50/bbl world, breaking down merger and acquisition (M&A) activity by basin to show where these firms are selling and where they are buying. The second part considers the E&P sector’s 2017 capital spending plans and production expectations as a whole, while the third delves into what these company’s have been doing to maintain and improve their financial health. The fourth and final section of Piranha!, which accounts for more than 120 of the report’s 150-plus pages, examines each company in our universe of 43 firms at a granular level, looking at their financial condition, capex plans, geographic focus, M&A strategies and a general assessment of the company’s position in today’s U.S. E&P industry.

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