EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG) is the dominant player in the Eagle Ford shale of south Texas, where it's the largest acreage holder and producer. The company has leveraged its position in that play to fuel remarkable oil production growth over the past several years. Furthermore, EOG expects it to play an essential role in driving its U.S. oil output up 20% this year.
However, that view came before Hurricane Harvey soaked south Texas, causing several oil producers to shut in wells and shut down their drilling activities. As a result, the storm will likely have a noticeable impact on EOG's third-quarter results that will be posted later this week. However, the report still might not be that bad considering how the storm impacted rivals, which provides clues on what we might see in EOG's results.
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Nothing more than a glancing blow
Heading into the third quarter, EOG Resources anticipated that its U.S. oil production in the period would average between 335,000 to 345,000 barrels per day (BPD). At the midpoint, it would be 2.1% higher than the second quarter and would keep the company on pace to boost its oil output by 20% over last year's average.
That said, Hurricane Harvey forced EOG and several rivals to take production offline during the storm. In mid-September, EOG noted that this would result in its oil output from the Eagle Ford coming in 15,000 BPD lower than expected. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that investors should brace themselves for a rough quarter.
That's because several rivals made similar cautionary statements after the storm only to go on and report solid third-quarter results. Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN), for example, initially warned that production in the quarter would be 15,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/D) below expectations. However, earlier this week, the company reported that oil output still managed to come in just below the low end of its guidance range. Because of that and its ability to drive down costs, Devon's earnings blew past expectations. It also remains on pace to end the year producing 20% more oil than it was at the end of last year.
Likewise, large Eagle Ford producers ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) and Sanchez Energy (NYSE: SN) announced that while Harvey had an impact, it wasn't enough to waterlog the quarter. In ConocoPhillips' case, it already reported that output was close to the high end of its guidance range despite a 15,000 BOE/D impact from Harvey. Consequently, ConocoPhillips also easily exceeded analysts expectations. Sanchez, meanwhile, hasn't reported results yet. However, it announced last month that output would be at the high end of its guidance range despite the impact from Harvey and another big storm.
How come Harvey didn't hurt so badly?
One of the reasons that these producers were able to overcome the impact from Harvey is that they delivered exceptional results elsewhere. For example, Devon Energy reported that it completed 50 high-rate wells during the quarter, which on average produced 2,100 BOE/D in their first 30 days. Moreover, Sanchez Energy reported that several strong well results helped push production up 43% versus the year-ago period. In the meantime, ConocoPhillips said that "increased volumes from its globally diverse portfolio" offset much of Harvey's impact.
Given EOG's drilling prowess, there's a good chance that it followed its rivals and delivered strong well results in the quarter, which should help it mute Harvey's impact. That's what the company seemed to indicate when it reiterated to investors in mid-September that it wasn't planning to water down its full-year growth guidance. The affirmation was noteworthy because of how EOG measures growth, which is that its average daily production rate would be 20% higher than last year. Contrast that with Devon's growth metric of choice, which is that its production rate at year-end would be 20% higher than it was at the end of 2016. Because of that difference, one lousy quarter could have caused EOG to fall short while Devon could more easily overcome a rough patch as long as it got to where it needed to be by year-end.
No reason to worry
While Hurricane Harvey caused production out of the Eagle Ford to fall last quarter, it didn't have as big of an impact on the region's largest producers as feared, which suggests it shouldn't derail EOG's 2017 growth plans. So, investors shouldn't be too worried if the company's oil production or earnings come in a bit below expectations. In fact, if that happens and the stock sells off, it could be a good opportunity to buy this top-tier oil stock.
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