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Executives

Mark Papa - Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Unknown Executive -

Timothy Driggers - Chief Financial Officer and Vice President

Analysts

Brian Singer - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Bob Brackett - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., Inc.

Leo Mariani - RBC Capital Markets, LLC

David Tameron - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

Scott Wilmoth - Simmons & Company International

John Herrlin - Societe Generale Cross Asset Research

Irene Haas - Wunderlich Securities Inc.

Rehan Rashid - FBR Capital Markets & Co.

Brian Lively - Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities, Inc.

Robert Morris

EOG Resources (EOG) Q2 2011 Earnings Call August 5, 2011 9:00 AM ET

Operator

Good day, everyone, and welcome to the EOG Resources Second Quarter 2011 Earnings Results Conference Call. As a reminder, this call is being recorded. At this time, for opening remarks and introductions, I would like to turn the call over to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EOG Resources, Mr. Mark Papa. Please go ahead, sir.

Mark Papa

Good morning, and thanks for joining us. We hope everyone has seen the press release announcing second quarter 2011 earnings and operational results. This conference call includes forward-looking statements. The risks associated with forward-looking statements have been outlined in the earnings release and EOG's SEC filings, and we incorporate those by reference for this call.

This conference call contains certain non-GAAP financial measures. The reconciliation schedules for these non-GAAP measures to comparable GAAP measures can be found on our website at www.eogresources.com.

Effective January 1, 2010, the SEC now permits oil and gas companies in their filings with the SEC to disclose not only proved reserves but also probable reserves, as well as possible reserves. Some of the reserve estimates on this conference call and webcast, including those for the Eagle Ford, may include estimated reserves not necessarily calculated in accordance with or contemplated by the SEC's latest reserve reporting guidelines. We incorporate by reference the cautionary note to U.S. investors that appears at the bottom of our press release and Investor Relations page of our website.

With me this morning are Bill Thomas, Senior EVP, Exploration; Gary Thomas, Senior EVP, Operations; Tim Driggers, Vice President and CFO; and Maire Baldwin, Vice President, Investor Relations. An updated IR presentation was posted to our website last night, and we included third quarter and updated full year guidance in yesterday's press release.

I'll now review our second quarter net income and cash flow, followed by operational highlights. In addition to our typical play results, I'm going to also address several hot-button topics, such as weather-related downtime, logistical issues and our plan to deal with the wide differential in crude oil prices between benchmark WTI and LLS. Tim Driggers will provide some financial details, and then I'll provide macro and hedging comments along with concluding remarks.

As outlined in the press release, for the second quarter, EOG reported net income of $295.6 million or $1.10 per share. For investors who follow the practice of industry analysts who focus on non-GAAP net income to eliminate mark-to-market impacts and certain one-time adjustments, as outlined in the press release, EOG's second quarter adjusted net income was $299.2 million or $1.11 per share. For investors who follow the practice of industry analysts who focus on non-GAAP discretionary cash flow, EOG's DCF for the second quarter was $1.15 billion.

I'll now discuss our 2011 business plan and operational results. Our business plan continues to be consistent and straightforward. We've completed the organic conversion to a liquids-based company by exploiting our world-class North American horizontal oil positions, while preserving 100% of our core North American natural gas resource play assets and maintaining a low net debt to total capital ratio.

Our investments in higher rate of return domestic oil plays will flow through the income statement, as net income increases and show up as superior ROEs and ROCEs. There have been 2 changes since the last quarter regarding the capital side of the business. We've increased our anticipated 2011 asset sales from $1.0 billion to $1.6 billion. The incremental $600 million of sales are primarily mature, long-lived domestic gas properties and other acreage. None of these sales involve any of our horizontal oil or gas resource plays. Through mid-year, we've closed our $944 million of sales, and we have signed purchase and sale agreements on another $271 million worth.

Although we expect to close all $1.6 billion by year-end, it's possible some of these may not close until the first quarter of next year. However, this $600 million of incremental dispositions will be partially offset by a $400 million CapEx increase, primarily caused by higher service costs. Later in this call, I'll describe our plans to mitigate these costs in 2012 with our self-sourced fracs.

We've recently had a lot of investor inquiries regarding weather-related downtime and crude oil takeaway logistics. Here's our situation. In the second quarter, we incurred the expected amount of weather-related downtime in our North Dakota Bakken operations. We also had a small amount of downtime in our Barnett Combo play, due to the lack of crude oil trucks. Because of the transportation contracts we put in place early this year in the Eagle Ford, we were able to move oil to sales and had no unusual crude takeaway downtime in that area.

Since mid-March, we've also had weather-related downtime in our Manitoba Waskada play. Going into the second half, the downtime in Manitoba has continued, and Bakken production also continues to be impacted by a residual flooding. Due to do this impact, we've slightly revised our full year oil growth from 55% to 52%, a total of 2,400 barrels per day from a previous midpoint target of 115,800 [ph] barrels per day, a very small tweak to the big picture.

Our total company full year growth target of 9.5% is unchanged, as is our NGL estimate. We still forecast a dramatic 50-plus percent year-over-year growth in crude oil production. You'll also note that our second quarter domestic realized oil price versus WTI was slightly better than similarly situated oil producers. This is primarily because of our Bakken crude-by-rail system and having a dedicated truck fleet to service Eagle Ford.

During the North Dakota spring flooding, even with some rerouting of trains, this crude-by-rail system allowed us to move our crude at much better differentials and by truck. We've also had a lot of investor inquiries relating to persistent WTI to LLS crude differential, and we think we're better prepared to deal with this in 2012 than any similarly-situated producer. We expect to have a capability to rail most of our Bakken and some of our Eagle Ford production to Louisiana instead of Cushing in 2012. And if this differential persists, we should capture the higher margin.

Lastly, we signed an agreement for 70,000-barrel a day unit train offloading facility to be built in St. James, Louisiana. The EOG-owned facility is expected to be in service late in the first quarter 2012. With our rail system next year, we'll have the flexibly to move crude to EOG-owned facilities at either Cushing or Louisiana.

In the second quarter, our total company production increased 11.6% year-over-year, and more importantly, crude oil increased 50% and NGLs 38% year-over-year. At EOG, we realized that in a $4 gas price world, increasing gas production is, at best, marginally profitable, while growing liquids is quite profitable. Consequently, I'm amazed that any buy- or sell-side analyst accords any importance to North American gas production growth, which is pushing more gas into an already over-supplied market.

During the second quarter, 105% of EOG's total volume growth came from liquids, as opposed to gas. With today's 22:1 value ratio differential, between oil and gas, we think that, that adjusted production both metric is essentially useless. What matters is EPS, EBITDA and cash flow per share growth. The IR presentation, we placed on our website yesterday shows an independent analysis of how EOG ranks versus appears for the 2010 through 2012 period on these metrics. EOG shows up as best in class, and I suggest you review this. That's the payoff for our organic oil growth that's unmatched by any company our size.

I'll now discuss the major drivers of our oil growth, starting with the Eagle Ford. As most of you know, this is the hottest play in the U.S. and EOG has the largest net position in the oil and wet gas windows, 561,000 acres, of any company in the trade. We continue to be the biggest producer from the oil window, with net after royalty production of 34,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day at the end of the second quarter, 83% of which is crude oil. I expect we'll consistently be the largest Eagle Ford net oil producer for the next decade.

We're continuing our high activity level to vest our leases since essentially all our acreage is prospective. Our press release contains multiple individual well results. So rather than providing you a well-by-well recitation, I'll provide some context regarding the overall play. There are 4 key points. First, our well results continue to be remarkably consistent across our 120-mile acreage spread, and we've been 100% successful on completions.

Our typical IP rates throughout the trend range from 700 to 1,600 barrels of oil per day plus gas and NGLs. As we stated on previous calls, our Eagle Ford drilling rates return are excellent. We think they are the best of any large play in the industry. The IR slides posted to our website show one sell-side analysis of forecasted first month Eagle Ford per-well revenue for EOG and the peers, and we're happy to see that our wells rank first. This is indicative of our well quality compared to others in either the oil or rich gas windows.

Second, we estimate there to be approximately 21 billion net after royalty Boe's in place within our 535,000 net acres in the oil window. Our current stated net after royalty oil recovery potential is 900 million Boe, which we believe is the largest, lower 48 onshore domestic net oil discovery in the last 40 years. This represents about 4% of total recovery of total oil in place, and now that we've got the reservoir characterized, we're working on ways to improve this recovery factor.

In the short-term, these potential recovery factor improvements fall into 2 categories: improving per well reserves; or reducing well spacing to maximize the NPV of the play. We're working on both of these, and we have encouraging news to report today regarding preliminary well spacing results.

Our 900 million Boe net after royalty potential recoverable reserve estimate assumes approximately 130 acre well spacing. As noted in our press release, we've recently experimented with tighter spacing, and early results indicate that tighter spacing may be more optimum. It's too early to quantify the reserve impact of closer spacing, but it's definitely positive. Simply put, we need more time to observe the production of these more closely-spaced wells.

Third, during the first quarter, we've had 2 independent ratifications of our Eagle Ford acreage value. The first was the Marathon purchase, which most analysts have valued at about $21,000 per acre. We believe EOG's 561,000 net acres have a higher average geologic and product quality than this transaction. The second ratification was the BHP purchase of Petrohawk. Both the size and quality of our acreage, we believe, significantly surpasses the Petrohawk position. I'll also remind everyone that at its first movement in the oil window, our acreage acquisition costs was approximately $450 per acre.

And fourth, last quarter, I noted some Eagle Ford crude oil takeaway issues. To date, our interim trucking and rail car logistical solutions have allowed us to avoid any shut-ins, and we're hopeful we can handle our increasing oil volumes until mid-2012 when the enterprise oil pipeline is installed. As you've undoubtedly heard on multiple earnings calls, everything in the Eagle Ford is tight: rigs, frac equipment and crews, sand and product takeaway capacity. So far, we've dodged a lot of bullets and haven't had to slow our 2011 program down because of bottlenecks.

We expect to begin using frac sand from our Wisconsin sand mine in the fourth quarter, which will reduce our well cost and provide a reliable sand source. To provide some scale for you, this facility will ultimately serve most of our North American resource plays. By combining forecast changes and company costs with the self-sourcing of frac sand in the Eagle Ford, we expect to save about $1 million per well compared to early 2011 well cost.

To summarize the Eagle Ford, we have the largest and best quality acreage position in the hottest play in the U.S., which is generating very strong per-well direct after-tax reinvestment rate of returns. As with all our oil resource plays, we intend to develop these asset without a JV.

Shifting to the Bakken. We continue to be the largest North Dakota oil producer and achieve consistent results. We plan to drill 106 gross wells this year, and we're pleased to note that a recent sell-side analysis of Bakken peak oil production rate per well ranked us second of 17 companies. This attests to the performance of our wells.

The main issue in the Bakken during the second quarter wasn't well performance, it was weather. As you've undoubtedly heard by now from other area producers. In our May guidance, we correctly forecast for downtime from the severe ice storm in the second quarter, but we underestimated the impact that the recent flooding in the Bakken and Manitoba Waskada areas would have on our full year production. As of today, we still have production shut-in in both areas because of flooding. Net-net, these flooding is the main reason we slightly shaved our full-year oil production forecast.

Our Barnett Combo play is also performing well, but we did have a small amount of second quarter oil and NGL production curtailed due to lack of crude oil trucks. We think this problem has been resolved. We continue to tweak our Combo frac designs and have recently achieved a higher initial oil and gas rates per well. We hope this translates into higher reserves before the treated lateral, but it will take 6 months to determine the results.

Our press release also noted a new successful, mid-continent horizontal oil play, the Marmaton sandstone in the Oklahoma Panhandle. During the quarter, we drilled 8 strong Marmaton wells, such as the 100% working interest Davis 3 No. 1H, which IP-ed at 1,050 barrels of oil per day with 5 million cubic a per day of rich gas for a $4.3 million well cost. We had 34,000 net acres in this play. Because we don't have a huge acreage position, this will be a contributory rather than a gain-breaking play for EOG, but it will help us grow mid-continent liquid volumes.

In the West Texas Permian Basin, we've had success in all 3 of our oil plays. The Wolfcamp, Leonard and Bone Springs. We have a total of 240,000 net acres that are likely productive in one or multiple intervals. As we see it now, the biggest of these 3 plays for EOG is the Wolfcamp. During the quarter, we successfully proved that new acreage with the 100% working interest to University 9 #2802H, which tested at a peak rate of 583 barrels of oil per day and 250 Mcf a day of gas.

We also completed a well with a long 9,100-foot lateral for 935 barrels of oil per day, with 830 Mcf a day of gas. As with all new resource plays, we've rapidly reduced both our drilling and frac costs, and thereby, improved RORs. We recently drilled the Wolfcamp well to 14,200 feet measured depths in 7 days, which is excellent. We have achieved similar positive well results in both the Leonard and Bone Springs.

In 2012, we'll be ramping up our Permian Basin oil drilling now that we have multiple proven successes in all 3 plays. This will develop into a more significant growth area for us in 2012 and beyond, and we expect the total net reserve estimate here to increase over time.

In our DJ Basin, Niobrara Play, we've expanded the acreage we've proven up. All the results reported to date had been on our 80,000 net acre Hereford Ranch prospect. This quarter, we drilled successful wells on an additional 89,000 net acres, expanding our prospective acreage to 169,000 net acres. The Niobrara has some unique production characteristics that we haven't seen in any other oil resource play. Some wells start out at lower initial rates but then exhibit much flatter declines in other plays. For example, the well that kicked off the play, the Jake 2-01H, started out at a 645 barrel of oil per day stabilized rate and is currently producing 275 barrels of oil per day, a low decline rate, 22 months later. To summarize the Niobrara, this will definitely be a contributory play for us, and with optimized frac technology we might turn it into an even more significant asset.

Last quarter, I introduced our successful Wyoming Powder River Basin Turner sandstone horizontal liquids play. We didn't drill any Turner wells this quarter, but we plan to drill 7 additional wells during the second half. During the quarter, we also added 100,000 net acres in Argentina's Neuquen Basin. Our target is the Vaca Muerta shale, which we believe will be oil-productive. We'll drill our first 2 wells in 2012.

Turning to the dry gas side of the ledger. We continue to focus essentially all natural gas investments in areas where we must drill to hold acreage, mainly the Marcellus and Haynesville shales. We're continuing to generate consistent well results in these areas. In British Columbia, you've likely already heard Kitimat project status updates from in Encana and Apache, and we concur with their status comments. Like them, we're excited about the project but it's not yet a done deal. The project is contingent upon the cost estimate study and ability to lock in long-term oil index off that contracts.

I'll now turn it over to Tim Driggers to discuss financials and capital structure.

Timothy Driggers

Good morning. Capitalized interest for the quarter was $14.8 million. For the second quarter 2011, total cash exploration and development expenditures were $1.64 billion, excluding asset retirement obligations. In addition, expenditures for gathering systems, processing plants and other property plant and equipment were $180 million.

At second quarter end 2011, total debt outstanding was $5.2 billion, and the debt-to-total-capitalization ratio was 30%. At June 30, we have $1.6 billion of cash on hand, giving us non-GAAP net debt of $3.6 billion or net-debt-to-total-capital ratio of 23%.

On a GAAP reporting basis, the effective tax rate for the second quarter was 46%, and the deferred tax ratio was 71%. Yesterday, we included a guidance table with the earnings press release for the third quarter and updated full year 2011. For the third quarter, the effective tax range is 35% to 50%. For the full year 2011, the effective tax range is 35% to 45%. We have also provided an estimated range of the dollar amount of current taxes that we expect to record during the third quarter and for the full year.

For each $1 per barrel change in wellhead crude oil and condensate price, combined with the related change in NGL price, the sensitivity is approximately $24 million for net income and $36 million for operating cash flow. EOG's price sensitivity for each $0.10 per Mcf change in wellhead natural gas prices is approximately $15 million for net income and $23 million for operating cash flow, excluding the impact of swaptions.

Now I'll turn it back to Mark to discuss hedging and provide his concluding remarks.

Mark Papa

Thanks, Tim. Now I'll discuss our views regarding macro and hedging. Regarding crude oil, we still like both the short- and long-term supply demand fundamentals, although guessing which way short-term prices will move is obviously a speculative call. We currently are 26% hedged August through December of this year, at a $97.02 price. And for 2012, we're approximately 7% hedged at a $106.37 price.

We continued to have a 1- to 3-year cautionary view regarding North American gas prices, but believe 2014 and later markets will balance as gas-powered electricity demand increases. For this reason, we have no interest in growing 2011 North American gas volumes at current price levels. Our hedges are consistent with our macro view.

The North American natural gas, we're approximately 50% hedged at a $4.90 price for September through December of this year. Additionally, we've sold options at a $4.73 price net of exercise. It would mean we're 88% hedged through year-end. For 2012, we're approximately 39% hedged at a $5.44 price. With options net of exercise, it will increase to a 70% hedged level at a $5.44 price.

Now let me summarize. In my opinion, there are 6 important points to take away from this call. First, our reinvestment RORs are very strong. I think they're the best in the industry, led by the Eagle Ford. This is driving our EPS, EBITDA and cash flow per share growth. Second, we believe our unit cost containment this year is excellent, considering the inflationary environment. Third, we're the leading oil producer in the 2 hottest and highest ROR domestic oil plays, the Bakken and Eagle Ford. No one our size is growing domestic oil volumes comparably to EOG. All of our plays are onshore, and all of the oil is sweet and high quality. This quality crude is in demand by refineries, and we'll be able to access LLS prices early in 2012.

Fourth, we're not interested in growing North American gas volumes at current prices, unlike most other companies. Fifth, we're accomplishing all this while maintaining low debt. And sixth, I'll be 65 years old next month, and it's appropriate that investors may want to know my plans. I plan to be in the current job for at least the next 18 months, and when I do retire, my successor will be a long-tenured EOG employee, who has the EOG DNA.

Across our 10 operating divisions in North America, the average tenure of our general managers is 17 years. Here in Houston, Bill Thomas and Gary Thomas, Senior Executive Vice Presidents of Exploration and Operations have a combined 65 years at EOG. As with any public company, we have succession planning discussions with our board, and when appropriate, we'll announce when decisions have been made.

Thanks for listening. And now, we'll go to Q&A.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Brian Lively with Tudor, Pickering, Holt.

Brian Lively - Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities, Inc.

Just in the Niobrara, can you provide us with the resource estimate update on the 160,000 net acres that you think are de-risk at this point?

Mark Papa

Yes. We haven't really come out with the resource estimate yet on there. I mean, it's no secret that the Niobrara has proven to be, I'd say, one of the more complex horizontal oil plays that both we and the industry have dealt with. I'm sure you're aware there's been mixed results from various companies in the Niobrara. I'm pleased to say EOG probably has the best results in Niobrara than any company. But we're still in kind of an understanding and evaluation phase of it as opposed to -- so we really don't want to give a number at this point in time because there's pretty wide range.

Brian Lively - Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities, Inc.

Well, maybe just on the Hereford Ranch area, even if the not total resource, what are you seeing sort of at the average EUR per well? Or just some context on that.

Unknown Executive

Yes, Brian, I'd say the averages is probably in the 200, 225 barrels of oil equivalent range. The good thing we're seeing on these wells is that many of them -- they don't come in at really extremely high IPs. They'll come in at, say, 300 or 400 barrels per day. But after a year or so, they're still making 200 barrels a day. So the decline rates are really low, and that's very encouraging to us. We also had a lot of encouragement on our step-out drilling, as Mark's indicated in his comments and in our press release. And so, just overall, we're real positive in what's going on, and I really think it's going to be a significant play for EOG. But again, we want to have a little bit more time to drill some more wells and to evaluate the production before we come out with a reserve potential number.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Brian Singer with Goldman Sachs.

Brian Singer - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

First on the Bakken and the Eagle Ford, can you talk to the costs associated with railing that to Louisiana, i.e. how should we think about the combination of quality and transport differential? And then can you also maybe add some color on where your current rates are relative to the second quarter average, whether we see a step up?

Mark Papa

Yes. In terms of when you say current rates, you talk about oil production rates or...

Brian Singer - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Oil production rates, that's right, yes.

Mark Papa

Yes. What we're programming this year for the Bakken is not a particularly strong step-up in oil production rates in the second half of the year compared to the first half. Where the growth is going to come in oil production rates is primarily from the Eagle Ford and secondarily from 3 different areas, really. The biggest secondary area will be the Combo play, and then also some contributions from the plays in the Permian Basin, and Mid-Continent. In terms of the rail cost, we haven't disclosed the cost or incremental cost to rail it from Cushing to St. James, Louisiana, and because it's possible we may be conducting third-party business there. And I don't want to give any proprietary information away, but what I can say is, relative to the current price value differential between LLS and WTI, it's totally obvious that we would, if those differentials exist next year, we'll be rail coloring every possible barrel we can to St. James as opposed to Cushing.

Brian Singer - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

And then as a follow-up, going back to the Niobrara, can you talk a little bit as to why you think you're seeing the flatter declines and flatter IPs there? And in the past, I think you've highlighted that unique frac technique, though I think you mentioned in your comments that you needed to optimize fracs further, and if you'd add some color there.

Timothy Driggers

Brian, I guess, early on, with some of the wells that came on with high IPs, we were thinking this was really more of an open fracture play. But as time goes along and we see more production from the wells, we're realizing that we're getting some contribution from the kind of system profitability, which would be a kind of a combination of maybe some new, some micro fracture system and the matrix firm. The wells wouldn't be so low decline. So that's what gives us encouragement, and it does pay. As you don't have open fracture systems, you really need to stimulate a lot more, and so it's really important for us to continue to learn and to refine our completion techniques to make this successful. And we don't have to get a low cost down on the play because the IPs are not that high. So we've got some work to do, but we certainly see a really good encouragement from the results so far.

Mark Papa

And Brian, let me just give a little more color, which may be helpful to people on the call. If you look at what's going on with the Niobrara, I'd say the play is kind of a liquids-rich play that most similar to it in one respect was the Barnett Combo and that the reason we basically own the Barnett Combo play in that overwhelmingly dominant acreage over there is because that play was very technically tough to turn into good economics. And so hence, everybody else shied away from it. And it took us several years to turn that into the kind of play we wanted to, and right now, we're really accruing the benefits from the Combo play, which is giving us extremely strong economics. The Niobrara is kind of like that in that it's not a slamdunk. The Eagle Ford and the Bakken were slamdunks. We came out of there in the first inning and hit homeruns, and those were just easier rocks to deal with. So some of these plays are ones that, because the rock quality is superior, you can knock the ball out of the park right in the first inning, and some of them takes you 'til the fifth inning or so before you knock the ball out of the park. And right now, with the Niobrara, we're probably in the third inning or so on that one.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Leo Mariani with RBC Capital Markets.

Leo Mariani - RBC Capital Markets, LLC

Just wondered if you could kind of comment on what you're seeing on the Eagle Ford in terms of recovery factors. I think you mentioned 4%, Mark, I think you had previously had a range of maybe somewhere around 3% to 4% roughly a year ago. I just wanted to get a sense of what you thought was responsible for some of the uplift and maybe sort of any guess as to kind of where you think this number might migrate to over time if you think there's going to be some upside there.

Mark Papa

Yes, I'd say our view is that there will be upward pressure on our $900 million of net after royalty reserve estimate there. Generally, we have been -- that estimate was based on a 130-acre spacing, which in rough terms translates to maybe a 1,200-foot to 1,500-foot between lateral wells. And we're now in the process that we have 2 to 3 months production history from wells spaced more closely, and we're drilling a lot of the wells that are currently being drilled or on this more closed spacing. And the initial reservoir simulation results, actual production results are encouraging, but as usual, we're pretty cautious in giving out estimates. So we could come out with some flashy number right now, but we just wanted to get more well results than the 3 wells that we have at down-spaced conditions and watch production for a while before we give you any additional numbers on the Eagle Ford reserves.

Leo Mariani - RBC Capital Markets, LLC

Got you, okay. I guess just jumping over to the Wolfcamp play. I think you guys are seeing favorably higher production rates rather than sort of your last round of updates in the well that, I guess, did just over 1,000 BOE per day when you throw in the gas. Just wanted to get a sense to what's happening there, if you guys are continuing to experiment with different frac techniques. I know you mentioned longer laterals on that particular well. What do you think's driving sort of the better production there?

Timothy Driggers

Leo, there's kind of several things going on. I think, certainly the longer laterals is making a big contribution to the better wells. We've also recently continued to tweak our completion techniques, and we now have, I think, in the last call, we had 1 well. We now have 7 wells that we completed with the new frac technique. And these 7 wells are averaging over the first 30 to 60 days about 15% to 20% better production than the old kind of completion techniques. So we don't, haven't upgraded our EURs yet. We are watching more a little bit longer. But that's also very, very, very encouraging. We've also drilled a number of step-up wells to prove up additional acreage. And so, we're very encouraged about this, looking at plays. It's moving along very nicely. We're getting our costs down. We're proven up additional acreage, and then we're improving those results from the wells that we're drilling. So it's all doing really well.

Operator

And our next question comes from the line of Scott Wilmoth with Simmons & Company.

Scott Wilmoth - Simmons & Company International

Guy, you mentioned the Wisconsin sand mine coming online in 4Q, could provide an upstand for most of your resource plays. You guys quantified the impact in the Eagle Ford. What could that mean to cost savings across your portfolio or maybe in terms of total CapEx for next year?

Timothy Driggers

If we use this sand, and we have our dedicated frac fleets on maybe [indiscernible] most of our wells there in the Eagle Ford. We already have that going in the Barnett. We're going to use this sand also in Pittsburgh, some also in West Texas. We could probably look in its savings around $400 million, just on the sand part. Then we have the benefit of the dedicated frac fleets, and that improved efficiency there. We have these contracted to similar to what we have, drilling rates contracted to us, just a day work basis.

Scott Wilmoth - Simmons & Company International

And then when I think about rig activity in the Eagle Ford currently at 22 rigs, can you talk about initial plans you are running into 2012 and what your future activity level needs to be to hold your acreage in the future?

Mark Papa

Yes. We, right now, we're planning on ramping up our activity in the Eagle Ford. And that's obviously going to be function to some degree of oil prices. So we're going to drill 250 wells this year in the Eagle Ford, and as a minimum, we'll drill 250 wells next year there. And in terms of some of the other areas there, we'll just being deciding what is the cash flow that we're going to generate next year and then try to balance it here. And obviously, this is -- we made -- depending on what oil prices do is a big function there.

Operator

And our next question comes from the line of David Tameron with Wells Fargo.

David Tameron - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

Mark, can you -- I think you might have mentioned, but I missed it. Can you talk about what the recovery rates are right now in Eagle Ford or what do you think the recovery rates are?

Mark Papa

Yes, about 4%, David.

David Tameron - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

Okay, 4%, and it does -- you said the additional downspacing, what do you think that would take you to adjust that, if that would work for tighter spacing?

Mark Papa

We haven't said. Yes, all we're saying is there, if the downspacing works, the recovery factor will likely be higher than 4%, but no quantification on how much higher.

David Tameron - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

Okay, okay. And then on the M&A, on the divestiture front, the $1.6 billion, additional $600 million you've said are in core plays. Did you characterize gas versus oil or kind of what's the midstream? Is it EMP appropriate? Can you give us a little more color there?

Timothy Driggers

As far as the producing properties that we're selling, all of that is gas properties. Most of it is properties that we've had for some time, like East Texas, and we're selling scattered properties in the Mid-Continent, Gulf of Mexico properties offshore. And that's approximately half of our overall dispositions, and the balance of that is leasehold facilities.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Irene Hass with Wunderlich Securities.

Irene Haas - Wunderlich Securities Inc.

This is my question. It seems like you guys have got these resource plays down to a sign, specifically in Midland basin, the horizontal Wolfcamp play. What do you think is the optimal link? I noticed that you still have some EUR up there on your presentation. Could there be upside to it? I'm just kind of wondering how much it's cost to drill and complete this play particular? Are you going for multiple benches? Are you focused on bench a, b or c? And that's all I have for you today.

Timothy Driggers

Yes, Irene, we've been drilling laterals anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000 feet. And a link to a lateral depends on a larger percentage of geology and the lease parameters, and things like that. Of course, we're drilling as long as we can to make better wells generally to get higher rates of return on that. We are testing multiple spacing patterns. We're drilling some wells on 990-foot spacing between laterals and some on 660-foot spacing, and we are, we primarily only tested the middle Wolfcamp. It's got 3 different pays over about 1,000 feet of gross intervals, so there's a lot of oil and gas in place. And there's 3 potential pay zones. We've primarily been testing the middle pay. Well, we do have plans to test the upper pay. And so there's a lot of work to be done. There's enormous amount of potential, and it's going really well. The well costs are running right now, about $5.4 million a well, and they're steadily going down. Our group in West Texas are doing a great job of getting the cost down.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of John Herrlin with Societe Generale.

John Herrlin - Societe Generale Cross Asset Research

2 quick ones. With Argentina, you said 2012 drillings. What are you going to do for things like frac equipment? It's not a country that's well known for having large fleets.

Mark Papa

Yes, I mean, there is a small amount of frac equipment in-country right now, and then the major service companies are in the process of shifting additional frac equipment down there. And for the first couple of wells, it's going to be kind of one-off deals that we'll have to schedule months and months in advance to get the fracs done. But our logic is, if this shale turns out to be something that is commercial and productive, that you'll see them, particularly the major service companies, just move equipment in there in the 2013 through 2015 timeframe. So it's -- we're pretty optimistic about the quality of that shale. We charge our people with -- the only way we go outside North America is if we could find the shale, an oil shale that we thought looked superior to Eagle Ford, and we believe we found one there. So time will tell.

John Herrlin - Societe Generale Cross Asset Research

So it wasn't the beef?

Mark Papa

No, it wasn't the beef, John.

John Herrlin - Societe Generale Cross Asset Research

Okay. With the Wolfcamp, how optimistic should we be? It's pretty thick interval, shale interval. How excited are you about it? Or can you put it in context of you other plays?

Mark Papa

Yes. In relative terms, we're pretty excited about the Wolfcamp. That one, we think that we have a very good chance of making consistently good wells there. So on a scale whereby we kind of said in this call that the Mid-Continent Marmaton was going to be a contributory play, and we said the Niobrara was a contributory play and maybe we could get it someday to be more than a contributory play, I would say that Wolfcamp's got a chance to be a kind of a game-breaking play for us in the Permian basin as opposed to just a contributory play.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Bob Brackett with Sanford Bernstein.

Bob Brackett - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., Inc.

If we think about crude by rail, do you worry that some of your competitors will follow what you've done and get to a point where the rail system can no longer support that export capacity? And what do you think that limit of export capacity could be?

Mark Papa

Yes, we're not -- I mean, the limitation right now, Bob, is not the rail system. It's tanker cars. That's where the real shortage is, it's tanker cars and external link capacity in Louisiana. Right now, we investigated, for example, a greenfield rail car terminal in Louisiana. The problem is the time to get the permits, the time to construct the greenfield plant. You're looking at minimum of 12 months from start time, probably more like 18 months. So what we've done is we've teamed up with a company whose got an existing terminal system there, a company called NuStar, and all we're going to do is augment that with building a rail car facility. The issue is everyone would like to get their crude there, but right now, the issues are weaker rail car crude there and there are some rail terminals in Louisiana except that they will capture those along the terminals, capture all the economic rent of that high LLS-WTI differential. So there's no benefit to producers to go through those terminals. So that's why we're going essentially through our own system there where we can capture that economic rent. I'll also say that we're quoting the nameplate capacity at 70,000 barrels a day, but we can very readily upscale that to 140,000 barrels a day without a whole lot of incremental investment. So the issue there is we don't think there's going to be a lot of people who are able to move this stuff by rail car just because the barrier to entry is 12 to 18 months of greenfield facility. So we think we will be advantaged in 2012 and the first half of 2013 relative to pretty much any other producer in ability to move crude to get the LLS price. So and on a timing issue, I mean, you're aware, as is most people, that the real question is, when will there will be an additional pipeline system out of Cushing to the Gulf Coast? And every time I look, it looks like that's been delayed or slowed down a bit more. And so it looks like to me that, at least through 2012 and by the early 2013, there's going to be some kind of a differential, pretty high differential between Cushing and LLS.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Robert Morris with Citi.

Robert Morris

In the Eagle Ford, what are your well costs running currently?

Timothy Driggers

They're running at about $6 million, 8 drill wells.

Robert Morris

Okay. Things last quarter. So with the sand mine or sand source in the quarter reducing well cost by $1 million. You've also noted your budget increase is still pretty persistent service cost inflation. So to what extent will that bathing on the sand be offset by inflation and other components here? And what do you expect the average well cost in Eagle Ford to be next year?

Timothy Driggers

We would say that the average well cost next year would probably be less than somewhere in the $5 million to $5.5 million next year. We are seeing cost creep there that just because it's such an active area, both there and the Bakken, that's where we've seen the increased cost to maybe somewhere 8% and 10% for 2011 above 2010. But there's more equipment that's being brought into the Eagle Ford, so I think yes, we'll see that subside.

Mark Papa

Okay, Bob, one way to look at it is we kind of quoted some economics and quoted a well cost to $6 million. We are seeing upward pressure on that currently, and we quoted about $1 million of savings for all this frac stuff when we get in place in the Eagle Ford. But probably now, there'll be $1 million savings, but that'll be offset by maybe $0.25 million price increase just for this cost pressure. So $5.25 million next year may be a reasonable cost estimate. You'll remember we quoted knockout economics, it's $6 million cost. So we'll have these reduced costs but, I believe, will be absolute best reinvestment rate of returns of any play in North America. So we feel pretty good about that.

Robert Morris

Good. On the service cost side, obviously everybody is pretty have pretty good margins of returns in these oil plays. When do you think some of this service cost inflation will begin to level out here?

Timothy Driggers

We're seeing it level out. Last year, we were seeing, for instance, stimulation costs were up 30% to 50%. And this year, we've got areas where it's flat, and in areas like the Rockies, I mentioned again, it's up 15% to 20%. But Mid-Continent's up only about 5%. So we're seeing some of that flattening with the additional equipment that's being constructed and put in place.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Rehan Rashid with FBR Capital Markets.

Rehan Rashid - FBR Capital Markets & Co.

Along the same lines, when -- how long are your typical drilling or completion contracts for? What I'm trying to get to is oil -- before oil prices contract or stay lower, how long before you kind of get some of those inflation numbers back to you before you deal?

Mark Papa

Yes, I mean, that's a good question. If you take our overall drilling rigs, we're running roughly 70, 72 rigs. We've currently got about half of them contracted long-term. Long-term means generally 1 year or 2 years, maybe 3 years at the most. And half are just on contracted just well by well. And the same on kind of our frac commitments. We've got these dedicated pumping fleets, and for our total frac requirements across the company, about 50% of those requirements are covered by these kind of long-term agreements. So in the scenario where you just had an utter collapse in both oil and gas prices, and everybody had to pull in their horns and slow down activity. In that frac theory, we could reduce our activity by 50% without incurring any contracts that we really would have to negotiate around.

Rehan Rashid - FBR Capital Markets & Co.

Okay, and the completion contract terms are the same, 1 to 3 years, right?

Mark Papa

Yes.

Rehan Rashid - FBR Capital Markets & Co.

Okay, okay. A quick follow-up on maybe a little bit on the geology on the Eagle Ford. I don't -- joined late so I apologize if you've mentioned this already. The Eagle Ford well performance holding better than modeled, any kind of color around kind of why that could be happening?

Mark Papa

Well, I'm not sure I'd say it's better than modeled. It's the same kind of we would describe as similar reserves that we've been talking about for the last 6 months in the Eagle Ford, which is nominally 430 to 460 Mboe net after royalty per well, but the consistency just is what continues to amaze me. The press release, we quoted 16 wells. That's -- we could've listed a whole lot more than 16 wells. So I'm just amazed that we haven't frankly drilled any real stinkers. We've got all these rigs around and drilling all these wells, and a bad well is the one that starts out at 700 barrels of oil a day, which is really a good well. So the point to make is we haven't seen any inconsistency in the Eagle Ford, and the downspacing is -- what we're really focusing on now is how densely can or should we drill these wells to maximize the NPV of this asset, given that right now, we're just slating 4% overall oil recovery. What you're going to see in all these source and our oil plays, whether it's the Bakken, the Wolfcamp so on and so forth, is Phase 2 of development of all of these plays is going to focus on improving the recovery factor. And if you go back to the natural gas side, a lot of you will remember that we quoted it initially in the Barnett Shale in Johnson County, a recovery factor that was turned out to be much lower than what we're currently achieving. We're, right now, we're achieving recovery factors in the Barnett Shale of roughly about 40% or so, I think, is our number. Now we never get to 40% oil recovery factor in these plays, but we really think what you people, as analysts, should be focusing on is who's the industry leader in improving recovery factors after these oil shales have been found and initial development has started? And just the EOG was the industry leader in finding most of these oil shale plays in North America. We believe we'll be the industry leader in attacking the improved recovery portion of it.

Operator

And ladies and gentlemen, this does conclude today's question-and-answer session. At this time, I'd like to turn the conference back over to Mr. Papa for any additional or closing remarks.

Mark Papa

Yes, thanks for listening. I've just got 2 additional comments. If you kind of listened to the drift of this call, what you can take away from it is, essentially, every one of our horizontal oil plays, we have upbeat news that we shared with you this quarter. And that's pretty rare. And then the second point, I'll reiterate it again because I'm really just befuddled why anybody in the industry pays the slightest attention to natural gas growth in North America is beyond me. And I continue to see particularly sell-side writeups that say, "This company is growing at this rate." In my mind, it doesn't matter if you're growing at that rate if your primary driver of your growth is natural gas, which is barely profitable at best. So I'd sure like people to focus more on the parameters we quoted, which are the EPS, EBITDA, cash flow growth and rates of growth of those. And I think you'll view EOG as the standout company in those parameters. Thank you very much, and that concludes my comments.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, this does conclude today's conference. We thank you for your participation.

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