Oil & Gas Industry Primer

Industry Primers
The means of analyzing an organization varies significantly from {industry} to {industry}. Many industries have their very own vocabularies and particular considerations that traders want to contemplate. This sequence of articles seems to be at particular industries and at industry-specific elements that have an effect on investments. The objectives are to focus on particular dangers, make clear complicated terminology and clarify industry-specific metrics for valuation. These strategies complement the same old analysis course of, they don’t change it.

The Oil & Gas Industry

Love it or hate it, the oil and gasoline sector is a central a part of the world financial system, powering a lot of the machines and energy crops on Earth. It is smart for traders to need to have some publicity to the sector that retains the lights on.

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021

Industry construction

The oil & gasoline {industry} is usually divided into 4 elements:

Upstream: The phase instantly concerned with drilling and extraction of oil or gasoline.

The upstream sector is characterised by excessive volatility. Production prices are comparatively fixed however the worth of the merchandise fluctuates broadly with little to no pricing energy. The sector is capital intensive and is thought for its growth and bust cycles.

Midstream: This phase transports crude or refined materials from level A to level B. While midstream typically entails pipeline corporations, it might probably additionally embrace trains and tankers.

The midstream sector makes use of very long-lasting belongings: a pipeline can keep operational for 30-60 years if properly maintained. Investors on this phase will need to concentrate on shopping for at a reduction, as earnings is extra regular and predictable. Growth is minimal and returns will principally come from dividends.

Downstream: This phase transforms the uncooked fossil gasoline assets into helpful merchandise and distributes them to the ultimate customers. This contains refineries turning crude oil into gasoline, but in addition gasoline liquefaction services or the petrochemical {industry} producing plastic, fertilizers, and different chemical substances.

The downstream sector options low margins and could be very capital intensive. This sector is most related for traders when built-in vertically in a company additionally dealing with upstream and midstream operations

Services: the O&G sector is a extremely technical one. There are many specialised corporations offering experience and instruments to the {industry}. These may be drilling rigs, geological surveys, pipes, valves, pumps, sands, chemical substances, and plenty of extra

The O&G Upstream Sector

International majors: Large vertically built-in corporations working everywhere in the world.

National giants: Large corporations with a monopoly on one nation’s assets. Often comes with massive state possession and better political threat with much less emphasis on minority shareholders’ rights.

Small producers and juniors: Usually targeted on just one area. Juniors are very speculative, as many should not producing but and are consuming capital looking for new deposits.

Measuring Oil&Gas

Oil is normally measured in barrels of oil (bbl) and manufacturing in barrels per day (bpd) or million barrels per day (mmbpd). Many deposits comprise each oil and gasoline on the identical time. Reserves are then expressed in barrels of oil equal (boe) the place the gasoline half is calculated “as if it was oil” to make it extra comprehensible. Many different items are generally used, notably cubic toes or cubic meters of gasoline, metric tons of oil, gallons, or BTU (British thermal items).

Assessing O&G investements

Production prices/Breakeven

Each O&G deposit has a particular geological profile that determines its exploitation prices. While this will fluctuate barely relying on administration’s abilities and expertise, breakeven prices are usually considerably steady resulting from unchanging geology. To be commercially viable, an O&G deposit’s breakeven prices will must be no less than 30-50% decrease than the market value for oil or gasoline.

The lowest breakeven prices present a bigger margin of security, as different producers with increased prices shall be compelled to close down manufacturing first in case of a downturn. This was for instance the case of Canadian oil sands within the late 2010s, which have been unable to maintain producing as oil costs fell. Low breakeven prices additionally permit a producer to keep up some optimistic money stream when the {industry} as a complete is shedding cash.


Reserves are a key metric for upstream corporations. Each O&G deposit has a restricted lifespan decided by the assets out there within the floor. An oil subject producing 100,000 barrels/yr with 1.5million barrels in reserves shall be depleted in 15 years. This means the present valuation of the corporate should cowl rather more than the worth of the assets within the floor to provide a revenue.

To use the instance above, let’s think about the 1.5m barrels have a breakeven price of $40. At an anticipated common of $80/barrel for the following 15 years, this makes 1,500,000 x $40 = $60M of anticipated revenue.

Considering the variability of future oil costs and doable manufacturing price inflation, a strong margin of security can solely be achieved if the corporate proudly owning this oil subject is valued at lower than $20M-$30M.

CAPEX, money stream, and write-downs

The Oil & Gas {industry} wants heavy and costly infrastructure and tools to function. This makes analyzing O&G financials difficult.

CAPEX is critical and can at all times eat a big a part of the money stream generated. The identical is true for exploration budgets to seek out new deposits.

The worth of the O&G deposits themselves is an asset on the steadiness sheet. Together with hooked up infrastructure, they are often written down in case of long-term low costs, resulting in massive “paper losses” in earnings however not in money or money stream.

For all the explanations above, the popular metric to worth O&G corporations must be Free Cash Flow, as an alternative of earnings, because it displays higher the price of CAPEX and ignores “paper losses”. It can also be necessary to test that exploration budgets are counted as a part of complete CAPEX. Without new exploration, the corporate will run out of assets in some unspecified time in the future sooner or later.


Launching new O&G exploitations take between 5-10 years, generally much more in jurisdictions with excessive regulatory burdens or for very technical initiatives like ultra-deepwater drilling or arctic deposits. This is the time it takes to seek out the oil, get permits, discover suppliers, attribute tenders, construct the infrastructure, rent, ramp up manufacturing, and so on.

As a outcome, new initiatives are usually accredited solely when market circumstances appear favorable to future profitability and money flows are excessive sufficient to finance them. So the {industry} tends to have durations of drastically low funding in CAPEX, adopted by a wave of huge initiatives. The consequence is usually unbalanced manufacturing, both too little (after an extended interval of low CAPEX) or an excessive amount of (when all the brand new initiatives come on-line directly). This results in persistent cycles of growth and bust in O&G costs.

Investors in O&G want to contemplate this threat. Record money flows and earnings are sometimes an indication of an incoming market prime. Alternatively, shopping for after years of low costs tends to be extremely rewarding, even when present money flows should not that nice.


Due to the capital-intensive nature of the {industry}, many O&G corporations are likely to accumulate lots of debt when launching new initiatives. This may end up in catastrophic failures and bankruptcies in case of a prolongated downturn in oil value. A high-quality steadiness sheet is an effective method to cut back threat when investing within the sector.


The cyclical nature of the {industry} is an funding concern. Bad administration tends to squander earnings from good occasions into development on the worse a part of the cycle. This ends in corporations with unprofitable belongings and excessive debt and ends in dramatic shareholders dilution or chapter.

The self-discipline to lift dividends and enhance the steadiness sheet throughout good occasions is an effective indicator of administration high quality. The endurance to attend for a downturn to pursue mergers and acquisitions and launch new initiatives can also be a superb alternative to amass invaluable belongings on a budget.


Transport bottlenecks can damage O&G producers’ margins. An excellent instance is Canadian manufacturing, which is usually landlocked and constrained by inadequate pipeline capability. At occasions, this will result in as much as a $10-$20 low cost on worldwide costs and put a cap on doable development.


The Oil & Gas {industry} is a extremely cyclical and capital intensive {industry}. As a outcome, it’s necessary to pay shut consideration to debt & CAPEX, administration high quality, and the financial cycle. Geography/jurisdiction and geopolitical dangers must also be on traders’ checklists. The unpredictable nature of exploration for deposits and the potential of industrial accidents (for instance, the Deep Water Horizon explosion) carry additional ranges of incertitude.

Due to those elements, traders within the sector will profit from increased than regular diversification and will demand a excessive margin of security. The O&G {industry} is more healthy for a deep worth technique than for a buy-and-hold portfolio and may carry large returns with an aggressive, well-timed technique. But it’s a dangerous sector, with very excessive volatility, and might be match just for traders with the appropriate temperament and a disciplined method to threat.