An Energy Independent That Acts Like a Major

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Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC) may only have a tenth of ExxonMobil's (NYSE: XOM) market cap, but it is developing a track record of success on a global scale that at times mirrors Big Oil strategy and suggests it is a force to be reckoned with.

Before we break down the company's full-year results, let's take a look at how Anadarko stacks up against majors ExxonMobil, BP (NYSE: BP) , Total (NYSE: TOT) , and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) .

Company

Market Cap (billions)

Revenue
 (billions)

EPS

Debt/Equity
 (most recent quarter)

2011 Performance

Anadarko$43.5$13.0($4.38)71.5%(0.39%)
ExxonMobil$401.8$452.9$8.4210.3%13.70%
BP$147.8$362.2$7.2241.1%(5.34%)
Total$122.9$211.3$7.0749.3%(5.82%)
ConocoPhillips$95.0$235.3$8.9741.68%6.78%

Source: Yahoo! Finance. 

The chart above is a great reminder of just how far Anadarko needs to go to become a big fish, but that doesn't mean it can't play in the same pond. The company does an excellent job of pushing past the idea that U.S. independents are best when limited to U.S. operations. Anadarko found success at home and abroad in 2011, and its results demonstrate that.

Full-year results
2011 was the year of liquids for Anadarko. The company pushed proved reserves up to 2.54 billion barrels of oil equivalent, and 45% of that was liquids. A 10% increase in liquids production drove sales volumes to a record 248 million BOE.

Despite these great numbers, the company took a big hit from its $4 billion payout to BP for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, reporting a net loss of $0.72 a share in the fourth quarter, and $5.32 per share for the year.

Full-year costs incurred in exploration and development came in at $5.6 billion, in line with analyst expectations and a good sign of efficient operations.

The future
Anadarko's operations are geographically disparate -- just like a major - and they're really humming in two key regions right now: Mozambique and the Niobrara shale.

Anadarko is making the most of its opportunity in the Niobrara's Wattenberg Field. The company's initial horizontal drilling results place the potential of the liquids-rich play at 500 million to 1.5 billion BOE. The company is currently operating five rigs in the region. In an effort to maximize opportunity in the region, Anadarko picked up the Wattenberg Plant in March to align its upstream and midstream assets.

Anadarko's deepwater exploration and appraisal programs had an extremely high 80% success rate in 2011. The biggest find by far was offshore Mozambique. Initially, the discovery was a "mere" 6 trillion cubic feet, but additional drilling revealed it was nearly triple that at 15 to 30 TCF. Seven wells have been drilled successfully in the offshore block, and plans for a natural gas liquefaction facility continue to move forward.

Foolish takeaway
Anadarko is making the most of two very different markets for natural gas. Focusing on liquids in the U.S. and dry gas abroad allows the company to mitigate the depressed domestic price of methane at home and exploit the higher price abroad, a strategy that many independent U.S. oil and gas companies are unable to entertain.

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