Oil majors Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) have failed to capitalize on the shale boom, playing second fiddle to their relatively smaller exploration and production peers Devon Energy (DVN), Chesapeake Energy (CHK), Continental Resources (CLR) and EOG Resources (EOG).
But despite playing a major role in the shale boom, natural gas-focused Devon and Chesapeake and oil-focused Continental and EOG aren't profiting equally. Right now Continental and EOG are the winners.
Over the last five years, shares of Continental and EOG have risen by more than 230% and 460%, respectively, easily outperforming the S&P 500, which climbed 114.3% in the same period. On the other hand, the shares of Chesapeake and Devon went up by just 37.1% and 31.8% in the corresponding period.
Continental and EOG will continue to play a crucial role in the future amid the increasing levels of shale unconventional oil production.
Analysts have given varying estimates regarding growth in shale oil production, ranging from an increase of 1.5 million barrels per day to 7.5 million barrels per day by the end of the decade. Exxon Mobil thinks the U.S. will be pumping more shale oil in 2015 than the current oil production of any OPEC member except Saudi Arabia.
So far U.S. shale oil production has blown past the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) estimates. Two years ago, EIA predicted shale oil production could reach 2.8 million barrels per day by 2035; just a year later, in 2013, the U.S. produced 3.5 million barrels. The agency has now forecast a 37% increase in shale oil production between 2013 and 2020, based on output from nine different regions.
On the other hand, research firm IHS has predicted a more than 70% increase in production in the corresponding period considering output from just Niobrara, Eagle Ford, Bakken and some parts of Permian Basin.