West Texas in My Eye - Diamondback Doubles Down (Again) on the Permian With FireBird Deal

It would be tough to find a large U.S. E&P with a clearer, more consistent geographic focus than Diamondback Energy. Over the past four years, the Permian-centric producer has closed on four 10-figure deals — total value $13.7 billion — that together have added more than 200,000 net acres in the nation’s leading shale/tight-oil play. Just this month, Diamondback went to the Permian well yet again, this time with a $1.6 billion deal to acquire FireBird Energy, a privately held Midland Basin producer that has been on a Permian buying spree of its own. When the deal closes later this year, Diamondback’s total production in the Midland and Delaware basins will approach 400,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (Mboe/d), or more than 100x what it was producing 10 years ago when the company had just gone public. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the company’s latest acquisition and its rapid rise to Permian prominence.

As we said a couple weeks ago in Almost Heaven — a blog about EQT Corp.’s acquisition of natural gas production and midstream assets in the Marcellus/Utica — the ongoing frenzy of M&A activity in the U.S. oil and gas space has been driven by a number of factors, including (1) renewed confidence that, despite the likelihood of a near-term recession, hydrocarbon demand — and prices — will stay strong for years to come; (2) a preference among many larger E&Ps to grow production and free cash flow through acquisition, not aggressive capital spending; and (3) a desire by many smaller, privately held producers (and midstreamers) to cash in now and reap big gains as they do. No U.S. production area has seen more deals in the COVID/post-COVID era than the Permian — the biggies there include ConocoPhillips’s $13.3 billion acquisition of Concho Resources, Chevron’s $13 billion purchase of Noble Energy, Cabot Oil & Gas’s $9.3 billion buy of Cimarex Energy (the combined company is now known as Coterra Energy), and Pioneer Natural Resources’ $7.6 billion acquisition of Parsley Energy and $6.4 billion purchase of DoublePoint Energy (see Buy, Buy, Buy).

The focus of today’s blog — Midland, TX-based Diamondback Energy — started out small in December 2007, when the then-private company acquired about 4,200 acres in the Permian. It completed its initial public offering (IPO) in October 2012 (when its production averaged less than 4 Mboe/d) and has remained a Permian pure play ever since, growing its proven reserves in the Midland and Delaware basins (including those of its publicly traded Viper Energy Partners property-acquisition subsidiary) from 64 million boe (MMboe) in 2013 to 1,789 MMboe in 2021 — a 52% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). In the second quarter of 2022, Diamondback’s production averaged just over 380 Mboe/d, with 221 Mb/d of that crude oil.

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