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Oil & Gas Stock Roundup Headlined by Chevron & Diamondback

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It was a week when oil prices bounced back above $70 and natural gas futures registered their highest settlement since February 2014.

On the news front, American biggie Chevron (CVX - Free Report) broke down its future shift toward an environmentally friendly direction, while shale specialist Diamondback Energy (FANG - Free Report) approved a new buyback plan.

Overall, it was another good week for the sector. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures moved up 3.2% to close at $71.97 per barrel and natural gas prices gained 3.4% to reach $5.105 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). Overall, both commodities managed to maintain their forward momentum from the previous three weeks.

Coming back to the week ended Sep 17, oil prices rose, underpinned by a report from the Energy Information Administration ("EIA") that showed draws in crude and fuel stockpiles. The commodity was also boosted by the major international forecasters’ encouraging view on oil demand growth next year.

Natural gas climbed too, buoyed by the slow restoration of hurricane-affected operations, late-season hot weather and strong LNG export demand.

Recap of the Week’s Most-Important Stories

1.  At its recent environment-themed presentation titled Energy Transition Spotlight, Chevron said that it will invest 200% more in lower-carbon businesses in the next seven years but stopped short of committing any timeline toward achieving net-zero operations.

The U.S. oil major set clear targets to ramp up renewable natural gas output to 40,000 million British thermal units (MMBtu) per day by 2030, while growing hydrogen production to 150,000 tons annually. Besides, the company is rapidly expanding its renewable fuels footprint with daily production capacity estimated to reach 100,000 barrels by the end of this decade, in addition to increasing carbon offsets to 25 million tons per year.

As part of this plan, the American energy giant will invest $10 billion in clean energy through 2028, more than triple the $3 billion earmarked earlier. Of the total, $3 billion each will be spent on renewable fuels and carbon capture/storage/offsets, $2 billion on hydrogen, while $2 billion is planned to be used to reduce the emissions intensity of the company’s portfolio. (Key Highlights From Chevron's ESG Investor Day)

2.   Shares of Diamondback Energy gained more than 3% on Sep 17, a day after the energy player stated that its plans to distribute 50% of free cash flow to investors were expedited. Beginning fourth quarter of this year, this Permian producer’s business will return free cash flow through its basic dividend and additional shareholder return methods.

In order to support this return promise, the Midland, TX-headquartered independent energy firm’s board approved a new share repurchase program worth $2 billion, which was implemented with immediate effect. The move underscores the company’s sound financial position and its commitment to reward its shareholders.

A much-improved commodity price scenario and the economic recovery contributed to the balance sheet strength of the energy companies like Diamondback. Benefiting from their robust fundamentals, their cash from operations is now covering capital spending. This provides a sustainable financial framework for these firms to increase cash returns to their shareholders. (Diamondback Shares Gain on $2B Buyback Acceleration)

3.  Royal Dutch Shell has made a final investment decision to construct an 820,000-tonne-per-year biofuels facility at the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam in the Netherlands. When completed, the plant will be one of the largest in Europe for producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel from trash.

The new plant will help the Netherlands and the rest of Europe in meeting the globally mandated carbon reduction goals. It will also assist the Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) Europe-based energy multinational in meeting its objective of becoming a net-zero emissions energy firm by 2050, in line with society's progress toward the Paris Agreement's climate targets.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

The biofuels plant in Rotterdam is anticipated to start producing in 2024. Using innovative technology created by Shell, it will manufacture low-carbon fuels such as renewable diesel from waste in the form of used cooking oil, waste animal fat, and other agricultural and manufacturing residual items. (Shell to Build Dutch Biofuels Facility to Cut Emissions)

4.   Helmerich & Payne (HP - Free Report) recently announced a strategic collaboration with The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (“ADNOC”) and its subsidiary ADNOC Drilling Company wherein ADNOC Drilling will purchase eight FlexRig land rigs from the contract drilling services provider for $86.5 million. Following this buyout, the company will make a $100-million cornerstone investment in ADNOC Drilling's recently announced initial public offering (“IPO”).

Earlier, ADNOC expressed its plan to list a 7.5% minority stake in ADNOC Drilling on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange in an IPO, reflecting the continuous development, strength and relevance in the Middle Eastern capital city's financial market. ADNOC, a renowned diversified energy and petrochemicals company, and Helmerich & Payne will remain ADNOC Drilling's dedicated, long-term stockholders.

The above agreement will help Helmerich & Payne achieve its goal of deploying capital worldwide, especially in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) area, by boosting its entry into the lucrative and rapidly-rising Abu Dhabi market as a vital platform for further regional expansion. (Helmerich & Payne to Pump $100M Into ADNOC Drilling IPO)

5.  Suncor Energy (SU - Free Report) recently reached agreements with eight indigenous communities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to buy the entire 15% equity stake in Canada's Northern Courier Pipeline Limited Partnership held by TC Energy (TRP - Free Report)

The partnership, which comprises Suncor, three First Nations, and five Métis communities will hold a 15% interest in this pipeline asset worth roughly C$1.3 billion, which will generate long- term, consistent earnings that will aid the communities for decades ahead.

Suncor will run the pipeline that connects its Fort Hills oil production in Alberta to its East Tank Farm asset after the acquisition is completed. Canada's premier integrated energy company stated that the collaboration is projected to generate gross revenues of around C$16 million per year for its partners and offer stable income. Subject to usual closing conditions and regulatory clearances, the deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2021. (Suncor, Indigenous Partners Buy Canadian Pipeline Stake)

Price Performance

The following table shows the price movement of some major oil and gas players over the past week and during the last six months.

Company    Last Week    Last 6 Months

XOM              +2.2%                -4.1%
CVX               +0.7%               -7.5%
COP              +5.7%               +13.6%
OXY               +7.8%               -7.4%
SLB               +5.7%               -2.6%
RIG                -4%                   -11.9%
VLO               +3.5%               -12.5%
MPC              +3.5%               +8.4%

The Energy Select Sector SPDR — a popular way to track energy companies — was up 3.2% last week. The best performer was oil and gas producer Occidental Petroleum (OXY - Free Report) whose stock climbed 7.8%.

Over the past six months, the sector tracker has inched up 0.6%. Upstream biggie ConocoPhillips (COP) was the major gainer during the period, experiencing a 13.6% price appreciation.

What’s Next in the Energy World?

As the global oil consumption outlook strengthens amid tightening fundamentals, market participants will be closely tracking the regular releases to watch for signs that could further validate the upward momentum. In this context, the U.S. government’s statistics on oil and natural gas — one of the few solid indicators that come out regularly — will be on energy traders' radar. Data on rig count from the oilfield service firm Baker Hughes, which is a pointer to trends in U.S. crude production, is closely followed too. News related to coronavirus vaccine approval/rollout/distribution will be of utmost importance. Finally, investors will be keeping an eye on the health of China’s economy following the Evergrande crisis.