Tickers in this Article: PXP, EOG, MRO, CLR, DNR
As the price of oil hikes onward, the United States is forecasted in a September report by Goldman Sachs to hit an all-time high crude oil production of 10.9 million barrels of oil per day by 2017. This is up from current production of 8.3 million barrels of oil per day and would make the United States the largest oil producer in the world, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia. This increased oil production in the U.S. is based on a few important plays throughout the country.

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According to Thomas Petrie, an analyst at Bank of America, much of this growth is coming from a few shales in the United States. These include the Eagle Ford shale, the Bakken formation and the Marcellus shale. Digging deeper we can take a look at the major players from the Eagle Ford and the Bakken that are contributing to the increase in forecasted production. With oil prices estimated by Barclay's to be $185 per barrel by 2020, these producers will be poised to capitalize.

Eagle Ford
With oil reserves estimated to be at 3 billion barrels, the Eagle Ford shale is expected to play a major role in making the United States the largest oil and gas producer in the world. Plains Exploration (NYSE:PXP) is one such company that is focusing on the Eagle Ford shale. It has set a growth target at a minimum of 15% per year, along with growing its reserves 15 to 20%. The Eagle Ford Shale will play a big factor in this growth, helping Plains Exploration increase its production to 140,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. In 2012 the company will devote 34% of its $1.6 billion capital budget towards the Eagle Ford Shale, and maintain that level of expenditure until 2015. This expenditure will increase their current production from Eagle Ford from 10,000 barrels of oil per day, growing at a CAGR of 52% per year until 2015, to close to 30,000 BOE per day. (For related reading, see A Snapshot Of Canadian Natural Resources Limited.)

EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG) is one of the largest oil producers from the Eagle Ford Shale with 78% of the company's 53,000 BOE per day coming from this shale. Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) is another player in this shale, with plans to increase its production from 18,000 BOE per day to 100,000 BOE per day by 2016.

Bakken Formation
Found in the western United States in North Dakota, the Bakken formation is predicted to be a key growth driver in the United States production. In October, the CEO of Continental Resources Incorporated (NYSE:CLR), Harold Hamm, stated that "the Bakken is the biggest hydrocarbon find in years, it basically doubles U.S. hydrocarbon reserves." He goes on further to state that it contains more oil and gas than Alaska's Prudhoe Bay field, containing as much as 20 billion barrels of recoverable oil. There is some controversy over this number, with the U.S. Geological Survey saying in 2008 that only up to 4.3 billion barrels can be recoverable, and a state study after that report stated that it contains 11 billion barrels. Regardless, if Hamm is right, there lies a substantial amount of oil in the Bakken. Continental is the largest player in this formation, with 34,505 BOE/d coming from the Bakken in the third quarter, or 52% of its overall 66,289 BOE/d production.

Another company that is focusing on this development is Denbury Resources (NYSE:DNR). With a capital budget of $1.35 billion for 2012, 26% or $350 million will be allocated to develop the company's Bakken properties. This will help increase their production from 9,976 BOE/d out of the Bakken to 12,750, and to 14,750 BOE/d by 2012. To put this in perspective, their total production in the third quarter was 66,830 BOE/d so the Bakken currently represents about 15% of that total and that will only head higher. (For related reading, see Peak Oil: What To Do When The Wells Run Dry.)

The Bottom Line
With these oil producers in the Bakken and Eagle Ford shales, you can bet that they'll be taking advantage of the ever higher oil prices. If you want exposure to the forecasted United States oil production growth, these companies might be worth taking a closer look at.

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At the time of writing, Chris Dumont did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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