Did Energy Intentionally Save Its Best for Last?

I'm willing to wager that, for most folks, the name Enron conjures up unpleasant notions of corporate malfeasance, fraudulently pumped-up businesses, seedy accounting practices, corporate officers cooling their heels behind bars, and the ultimate death of Arthur Andersen, once the lion of public accounting firms.

Lousy parentage, great kids
It clearly was all that. But I think it's more than a little intriguing -- albeit lesser known -- that the infamous Houston company's progeny continues to include a pair of ultra-solid energy companies: Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (NYS: KMP) and EOG Resources (NYS: EOG) . If you're inclined to believe my Foolish colleague Isac Simon and me, you're among those who counts the two companies as the ideal ways to play the natural gas and oil booms, respectively.

Isac's recently filled you in on the goings-on at Kinder Morgan, including its progress toward the imminent purchase of El Paso (NYS: EP) . The combination will form the biggest midstream operation this side of Russia's giant Gazprom. In view of that background, I'll devote the remainder of my time and space to a similar update on EOG.

It almost certainly hasn't escaped your attention that moribund U.S. natural gas prices have taken the first-quarter measure of noteworthy exploration and production operations like those of ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) and Chesapeake Energy (NYS: CHK) . That sort of struggle was hardly the case at EOG, however. In his company's post-release call, CEO Mark Papa told us precisely why: "For the first quarter, 80% of our total company wellhead revenues emanated from liquids. In North America, 85% of wellhead revenues came from liquids. Of these liquids revenues, 87% are from crude and condensate and only 13% from NGL's."

A major bump
The result was a net income jump to $324 million, or $1.20 a share, up from $134 million, or $0.52 a share. Even if you back out $565 million in asset sales, along with other items, earnings per share were still $1.17, essentially in line with the $1.16 Wall Street expected. The crude and condensate volumes that Papa described climbed 49% year over year to an average of 140,800 barrels per day, with a mean price that was up 15%.

Internationally, EOG has operations in Argentina, China, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.K, and Canada. In North America, the company is fortunate to have plunked itself down in North America's hottest crude oil and liquids plays, including the South Texas Eagle Ford, the North Dakota Bakken, the Fort Worth Barnet Combo, and the Permian Basin Wolfcamp and Leonard shales, among other locations.

All the right spots
Looking at its especially active U.S. liquids plays, beginning with the Eagle Ford, Papa said, "[W]e continue to see an improvement in well performance from recent wells compared to wells completed just a year ago. This is likely due to better fracks and better placement of our laterals. This is occurring across essentially all our acreage." In the highly attractive Bakken Three Forks -- EOG is the largest Bakken oil producer in North Dakota, its core -- "[W]e've recently generated exciting and very significant results in three different parts of the play, indicating we have more potential upside growth opportunities than we've previously indicated."

The company also controls 240,000 net acres in Wyoming's Powder River basin. In that active venue, EOG has recently completed a pair of horizontal wells in the Turner sandstone area, encountering an average of 310 barrels per day of oil and 1.9 million cubic feet of rich gas per well.

I'll end this whirlwind tour of a portion of the company's operations by noting that in Argentina, which suddenly has become as oft-ballyhooed as the Kardashians, EOG has recently completed its first vertical well in the potentially huge Vaca Muerta Shale. According to Papa, the still new well "looks strong."

The Foolish bottom line
By now I trust you get the picture. Despite its somewhat dicey pedigree, it would necessitate a yeoman's effort to locate an exploration and production operation with the record of virtually unmitigated success turned in by EOG, the third-largest U.S. independent. It's a company that I consider capable of dressing up any portfolio, one that at the very least warrants a spot on all Foolish versions of My Watchlist.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorDavid Lee Smithdoesn't have financial interests in any of the companies named in the article above.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Exxon Mobil and Chesapeake. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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