BHP Billiton PLC (NYSE: BHP) paid more than $12 billion in 2011 to acquire Petrohawk, the company usually credited with opening up the Eagle Ford play. Those were the days when the big mining companies like BHP were printing money. In the same year, BHP paid Chesapeake $4.75 billion for leases on 487,000 acres in the Haynesville shale play, and the mining giant’s $39 billion effort to acquire Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan was withdrawn before it could be rejected by the Canadian government. The Australia-based mining giant has market cap of nearly $120 billion.
For its fiscal year ended in June 2014, BHP reported revenues of $4.26 billion from onshore U.S. production. Consolidated revenue for the company in the fiscal year totaled $67.21 billion. BHP generates a little more than 6% of its worldwide revenues from all its U.S. hydrocarbon assets, which partially explains the lack of detail in the company’s Form 20-F.
BHP had 313 drilling permits in the Eagle Ford play at last count, and the company is expected to produce about 75,000 barrels of oil per day in 2014. Adding in its natural gas and NGL production BHP’s total production in the Eagle Ford is expected to run around 162,000 boe per day in 2014.
This is the largest pure-play exploration and production company in the United States and the third-largest oil producer in the Eagle Ford. The market cap of ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) is about $75.9 billion. In the third quarter of 2014, Conoco’s average daily net production of crude in the lower 48 states totaled 191,000 barrels a day and the average realized price per barrel was $87.91, compared with a price of $100.25 in the third quarter of 2013.
Conoco does not offer more detailed data on production by field, but does note that the Eagle Ford and Bakken plays combined delivered 212,000 boe per day. Conoco is not among the top five permit holders in the Eagle Ford play, but the company’s leases of more than 200,000 net acres positions it at eighth-largest there.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) holds the second-largest number of drilling permits in the Eagle Ford play with 546 and the second-largest net acreage position with nearly 450,000 net acres. The company has been shedding assets for years now but still maintains about 13 million net acres of U.S. onshore leases, and it has a market cap of about $11.9 billion. The company is expected to produce about 80,000 barrels a day from the Eagle Ford in 2014.
In the third quarter, Chesapeake reported oil production totaling 9.1 million barrels, or about 101,000 barrels per day for its Southern Division, which includes the Eagle Ford among several unconventional oil and gas plays. The average sales price totaled $94.14 per barrel, compared with production of 9.8 million barrels in the third quarter of 2013, with an average sales price of $101.57 a barrel.
Just trailing Chesapeake in expected production from the Eagle Ford play in 2014 with about 75,000 barrels a day of liquids is Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO). The company also claims the fourth-highest total of drilling permits in the Eagle Ford and the ninth-largest net acreage position, with about 200,000 net acres. Marathon’s market cap is around $17.3 billion.
Marathon beat Conoco to the punch by spinning off its refining operations and becoming a pure-play exploration and production company in 2011. The company reported that net sales volumes from the Eagle Ford in the third quarter of 2014 totaled 75,000 barrels a day, up by nearly 50% over the 52,000 barrels a day produced in the third quarter of 2013. The average realized price per barrel in the third quarter was $93.51, down from $104.08 in the prior-year quarter.