Better Technique Leads to Better Returns

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As a pure Bakken play, Triangle Petroleum has boosted its reserves and production while lowering well completion times. On top of that management has also revised its guidance higher, which is a bullish sign for strong growth potential.

Higher hopes
Previously Triangle had forecasted December 2013 production to be at 5,000-5,500 boe/d (barrels of oil equivalent a day), but that has since changed for the best. Now Triangle sees itself producing 7,000-8,000 boe/d by the end of 2013. 

This is a big revision upwards and would represent massive growth over the 2,098 boe/d produced at the end of last year. In order to hit that level of production Triangle is completing more wells each quarter.

One way Triangle is completing more wells is by reducing the time it takes to complete a well. Over the past four quarters the time to complete a well has dropped from 28 to 23 days. This enables Triangle to move its rigs to a different location to start drilling a new well faster.

In the second quarter of last year Triangle completed 2.5 net wells but in its last quarter Triangle bumped that up to 5.2 net well completions. When you bring more wells online you get higher levels of production, which translates into a larger cash flow. The more cash you bring in the more you can invest back in the business and further increase production.

With Triangle's additional cash flow it plans on drilling 3-4 exploratory wells in its 50,000 net acres in Montana, which could increase its reserves if a significant amount of oil is found.

As of last year, Triangle's reserves stood at 14.6 million boe, but halfway through 2013 that number increased to 28.36 million boe. Explosive reserve growth gives Triangle more locations to drill and more oil to pump out. A longer growth runway rewards investors with a bigger bottom line and is why Triangle is worth considering as an investment.

Triangle isn't alone in the Bakken; EOG Resources also has plans for the play.

Quicker and leaner
EOG has been able to lower well completion costs to $9.5 million from the 2012 level of $10.1 million in the Bakken core and Antelope play. Going forward EOG wants to further reduce costs by self-sourcing the sand it uses in the fracking process.

On top of that EOG has reduced the time to complete a well from 24.3 days in 2012 to 16.9 in 2013. This enables EOG to finish wells faster at a lower price, which results in more wells coming online.

More wells coming online boosts EOG's oil output and gives it more cash to invest in the business. EOG plans on using that cash to complete 53 net wells in 2013 and ramping up drilling activity in 2014.

EOG has increased the estimated amount of oil recoverable from each well to 940,000 boe from 350,000 boe in 2010. This is due to the deeper laterals EOG has been drilling, which is now down to 10,367 feet versus 4,710 feet in 2010. As EOG keeps drilling deeper expect the amount of oil that each well pumps out to increase, which gives EOG a longer growth runway.

EOG plans on ramping up production in 2014 through different drilling techniques, deeper laterals, and more wells being completed. EOG has been very successful in the Bakken and is also seeing great performance in the Permian Basin

The whole continent
Continental Resources
 owns 1.2 million net acres in the Bakken play, which is up 21% year over year. In order to keep increasing production you need land to drill, and Continental has that covered.

Continental is forecasting that by 2017 it will triple production, and it's already exceeding its own estimates of getting there. It also plans on tripling reserves in that same time period, which is going to come from exploratory wells and more acreage.

To reach that level of growth Continental is going to increase its capital expenditure budget from $3.6 billion in 2013 to $4.05 billion in 2014. Spending on drilling is going to increase from $2.72 billion to $3.04 billion in 2014.

The bigger budget is going to add eight new rigs in 2014, which will increase Continental's operating rig count to 43. This will allow Continental to complete 400 net wells in 2014, which would be an increase of 22% year over year and will allow Continental to push up production significantly.

Continental's bet on the Bakken could yield huge results, especially since it's already ahead of schedule to triple production. This E&P player is worth considering as an investment as it is already hitting its aggressive growth targets.

Final thoughts
All three players are planning on ramping up production through the end of 2013 and beyond, which will push up production and increase their cash flows. By utilizing better drilling techniques, which allows them to bring more wells online faster, this love triangle will see explosive growth in the play.

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The article Better Technique Leads to Better Returns originally appeared on

Callum Turcan has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of EOG Resources. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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