Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chevron’s Output Is Deteriorating -- So Should You Be Spooked?

This article was originally published by TheStreet, and also appeared on Yahoo! Finance, on August 5, 2014. 
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Chevron (CVX_) reported a drop in production in its latest quarterly results on Friday, as the company's shares dropped by more than 1% and still haven't fully recovered. (As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, shares were trading at $125.83.)
This could be a buying opportunity for long-term investors who consider the six major projects that could revive Chevron's flagging production growth within the next three years.
In terms of price-to-earnings ratio, a metric which is commonly used to measure valuation, with the latest stock price drop Chevron has now become the cheapest vertically integrated oil super-major, as compared to rivals ExxonMobil (XOM_), Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A_)  (RDS.B_)BP (BP_)  and  Total (TOT_).

In its second-quarter results, Chevron's net income increased by 5.6% to $5.7 billion, easily beating analysts' estimates on the back of a better pricing environment and gains on the sale of assets. On the other hand, Chevron's quarterly revenues came in at $57.9 billion, unchanged from last year and below the market's expectations, as its production dropped by 1.5% to 2.55 million barrels of oil equivalents per day.
The results came a day after Chevron received a setback when Apache (APA_), Chevron'spartner in the Kitimat liquified natural gas project off the coast of western Canada, decided to pull out from the joint venture.
Apache's move has cast doubts over the future of the LNG export project, which is 50% owned by Chevron. During the earnings conference call, Chevron's head of exploration and production George Kirkland said that the company will stick to its share in Kitimat, meaning it is not going to buy Apache's stake and will likely seek another partner.
On the other hand, Chevron has three major LNG projects slated to come online through 2016 that could lift its flagging output and earnings. Two of these projects, Gorgon and Wheatstone, are located in Australia. These two projects are  known for their infamous cost over-runs. That said, the $54 billion Gorgon LNG project is now more than 83% complete and will begin first production of LNG from next year. Kirkland expects Gorgon, which could produce 15.6 million tonsof LNG each year, will become a key driver of production growth from 2015.
Similarly, the Wheatstone project, with its 8.9 million tons per year, also comes with a hefty price tag of $29 billion and is on track to begin production from the final quarter of 2016. Chevron has developed 40% of Wheatstone and will reevaluate the costs once the project is 50% complete.
The third LNG project is located in Angola. It shut down earlier this year due to technical problems. The $10 billion project, which is 36.4% owned by Chevron, started producing LNG in 2013, but could not operate at full capacity due to frequent problems. However, following repairs and testing, Kirkland has forecast that Angola LNG will begin "sustained production" from the latter half of 2015. This project could produce 5.2 million tons of LNG, 63,000 barrels of natural gas liquids and 125 million cubic feet of gas on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, Chevron is also gearing up to start two major deepwater Gulf of Mexico projects this year. Those should lift the company's crude output. The 44,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day Tubular Bells project is nearly complete, and will begin production from the current quarter. After this, Chevron will start the massive Jack/St. Malo project in the fourth quarter of this year, which should produce 177,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day.
Next year, Chevron's Big Foot development in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico will also begin commercial operations, producing up to 79,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day. Chevron owns more than 40% of Tubular Bells and Jack/St. Malo and 60% of Big Foot.
Overall, these six projects, along with two large, operating deepwater developments in Nigeria and Brazil, and the Mafumeira Sul project in offshore Angola (expected to begin operations from 2016), will lift Chevron's production by around 900,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day by 2017. And we haven't even considered Chevron's shale assets at the Permian Basin in West Texas, Vaca Muerta in Argentina and the Duvernay and Liard Basin in Canada.
With increasing output from LNG, deepwater and shale assets, Chevron has said that it will gradually increase its production to 3.1 million barrels per day by 2017, an increase of more than 20% from the previous quarter -- even if it suffers a setback that could cut its output by 50,000 barrels a day.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.