Some of the country's top shale plays are going to see huge growth in the next few years. These companies will grow reserves and production by 30%, 40%, or even 50%... without adding a single new acre of land. It comes down to the idea of "stacked plays." Let me explain...
Longtime investors know that shale fields are responsible for an incredible boom in oil and gas production. These deposits come in the form of thin layers of oil-soaked rock. If you could see them exposed in a cliff, the rocks would look like layers in a cake... And sometimes, several layers of the cake hold oil and gas. We call that a "stacked play." These stacked plays are great for oil and gas producers. They can drill into several oil reservoirs from a single point on the surface.
Take the Spraberry/Wolfcamp formation in West Texas, for example, Officials from Pioneer Resources (NYSE: PXD), which owns approximately 730,000 acres in the area, boast that Spraberry/Wolfcamp could be the world's second-largest oilfield, with 50 billion barrels of recoverable oil. That's an astonishing volume of oil... more than the Bakken, more than the Eagle Ford, and more than Alaska's iconic Prudhoe Bay.
And they might be right... Spraberry/Wolfcamp has six productive layers of shale. The productive rocks are spread over 4,000 vertical feet. According to Pioneer, if you spread those rocks out flat (instead of stacking them up) you'd have a 3 million to 4 million acre oilfield. When Pioneer wants to increase production, it doesn't have to worry about the huge costs of a brand-new exploration program. That's because its exploration is directly under its existing wells. A single drill "pad" – the flat, cleared area set up for the drilling rig – used to hold just one well. Now... it can support 30 to 40 wells. That saves money and time.
The Bakken shale in North Dakota could offer the same benefits... And we might start calling it the Bakken/Three Forks. The Three Forks is another productive rock layer below the Bakken. Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR) is the best player in the Bakken. The company believes those rocks could more than double the Bakken's recoverable reserves to 32 billion barrels of oil. And you can see what those "extra" barrels have already done for the company.
In just five years, Continental's reserves per acre grew by 144%. And I expect that number to continue to grow as it keeps drilling the Three Forks. Continental shares are in a strong uptrend, up 38% since last August. And the promise of the stacked play could add significant reserves and value to Continental's shares over the next 12-18 months. Other shale basins hold similar promise. The Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania has two more shales underneath it... the Utica and the Devonian. Another basin, called the Powder River, is home to the Niobrara formation. We're just starting to understand the stacked plays here. Below, you'll find a list of companies with exposure to the massive stacked plays emerging in the U.S. right now.