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Leading Bakken oil producer, Continental Resources Inc. (CLR - Snapshot Report) announced that its total proven oil and gas reserves for 2012 increased by 54.0% to 785 MMBoe (million barrels of oil equivalent) year over year.

The growth was mainly backed by exploration and development activity. Accelerated production in the Bakken play of North Dakota and Montana and increased production in South Central Oklahoma Oil Province (SCOOP) also contributed to the growth. Continental is the leading leaseholder in the Bakken, with a net acreage of about 1.1 million.

Continental's total 2012 proved reserves consisted 39.0% proved developed producing (PDP) versus 40.0% at year-end 2011. The company also operated 85.0% of its total proved reserves in 2012, 1.0% lower than year-end 2011.

Continental’s proven crude oil reserves for 2012 represented 72.0%, an increase of 8.0% from the 2011 level. The growth was higher even with two crude-oil concentrated divestitures.

Continental plans two key exploration programs for 2013. The first one is to test the productivity of lower benches of the Bakken Three Forks formation with a 14-well program at locations throughout the play. As per the second program, the company will test the density of the wells in Middle Bakken and the first three benches of the Three Forks zone.

Oklahoma City-based Continental is an independent exploration and production (E&P) company focused on the Bakken, Cana and Niobrara shale plays. The company operates in the North, South and Eastern regions of the U.S. Its North region is in the north of Kansas and west of the Mississippi river and comprises North Dakota Bakken, Montana Bakken, the Red River units and the Niobrara play in Colorado and Wyoming. The first two appear most promising for Continental.

Continental currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), implying that it is expected to perform in line with the broader U.S. equity market over the next one to three months.  

However, certain other U.S. exploration and production firms like Breitburn Energy Partners L.P. (BBEP - Snapshot Report), Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (COG - Analyst Report) and Memorial Production Partners L.P. (MEMP - Snapshot Report) are expected to significantly outperform the equity market in the next one to three months. All the three stocks currently hold Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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