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Analyzing growth potential is a great place to start when considering an investment. After all, the larger the growth, the higher the gains. Today we focused on stocks in the oil and gas drilling sector. The growth opportunities in this category are abundant. We developed a list of stocks with growth projections for the coming year that are impressive. In addition, industry analysts have given recent "Buy" or "Strong Buy" ratings to these stocks. We think you will enjoy comparing the companies against one another and making your own conclusions as to where to apply further research.

EPS growth (earnings per share growth) illustrates the growth of earnings per share over time. The 1-Year Expected EPS Growth Rate is an annual growth estimate, where the growth projections are made by analysts, the company or other credible sources.

We first looked for oil and gas drilling stocks. We then looked for businesses that have high future earnings per share growth forecasts (1-year projected EPS Growth Rate > 25%). We then looked for companies that analysts rate as "Buy" or "Strong Buy" (mean recommendation < 3). We did not screen out any market caps.

Do you think these stocks are worth more than the market currently says? Use this list as a starting-off point for your own analysis.

1) FX Energy Inc. (NASDAQ:FXEN)

SectorBasic Materials
IndustryOil & Gas Drilling & Exploration
Market Cap$410.21M
Beta1.75

FXEN stock chart

Key Metrics

1-Year Projected Earnings Per Share Growth Rate433.30%
Analysts' Rating1.70
Short Interest6.16%

FX Energy, Inc. engages in the exploration and production of oil and gas properties primarily in Poland and the United States. The company primarily focuses on the exploration of Rotliegend sandstones in the Permian Basin, Poland. As of December 31, 2011, its estimated proved reserves were 53.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent, including 49.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 0.6 million barrels of oil. The company holds oil and gas exploration rights in a range of project areas comprising approximately 4.6 million gross acres in Poland, as well as produces oil from approximately 10,732 gross acres in Montana and 400 gross acres in Nevada. It also provides contract oilfield services, including drilling, workovers, location work, cementing, and acidizing. The company was founded in 1989 and is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

2) Halcon Resources Corporation (NYSE:HK)

SectorBasic Materials
IndustryOil & Gas Drilling & Exploration
Market Cap$1.66B
Beta1.83

HK stock chart

Key Metrics

1-Year Projected Earnings Per Share Growth Rate940.00%
Analysts' Rating1.80
Short Interest6.63%

Halcn Resources Corporation, an independent energy company, engages in the acquisition, production, exploration, and development of onshore oil and natural gas properties in the United States. The company holds its interests in Electra/Burkburnett fields located in Wichita and Wilbarger Counties, Texas; Northeast Fitts and Allen fields in Oklahoma; and various fields in Louisiana. As of December 31, 2010, it had proved reserves of 14.2 MMBoe in Texas fields, 6.3 MMBoe in Oklahoma fields, and 3.2 MMBoe in Louisiana fields. The company was formerly known as RAM Energy Resources, Inc. and changed its name to Halcn Resources Corporation in February 2012. The company was founded in 1987 and is based in Houston, Texas. Halcn Resources Corporation operates as a subsidiary of Halcon Resources, LLC.

3) Penn West Petroleum Ltd. (NYSE:PWE)

SectorBasic Materials
IndustryOil & Gas Drilling & Exploration
Market Cap$6.97B
Beta1.44

PWE stock chart

Key Metrics

1-Year Projected Earnings Per Share Growth Rate160.00%
Analysts' Rating2.20
Short Interest1.00%

Penn West Petroleum Ltd., an exploration and production company, engages in acquiring, exploring, developing, exploiting, and holding interests in petroleum and natural gas properties and related assets in Western Canada. The company's principal proved plus probable reserves are located in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories, Canada. It also has proved plus probable reserves interests in Wyoming and North Dakota, the United States. The company was formerly known as Penn West Energy Trust and changed its name to Penn West Petroleum Ltd. in January 2011. Penn West Petroleum Ltd. was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in Calgary, Canada.

4) Ocean Rig UDW Inc. (NASDAQ:ORIG)

SectorBasic Materials
IndustryOil & Gas Drilling & Exploration
Market Cap$2.11B
Beta-

ORIG stock chart

Key Metrics

1-Year Projected Earnings Per Share Growth Rate475.00%
Analysts' Rating1.70
Short Interest1.36%

Ocean Rig UDW Inc. operates as an offshore drilling contractor worldwide. The company provides oilfield services for offshore oil and gas exploration, development, and production drilling. It specializes in the ultra-deepwater and harsh-environment segment of the offshore drilling industry. Ocean Rig UDW Inc. owns and operates two ultra-deepwater semisubmersible offshore drilling rigs and four ultra-deepwater drill ships. The company is headquartered in Nicosia, Cyprus. Ocean Rig UDW Inc. is a subsidiary of DryShips Inc.

5) Pengrowth Energy Corporation (NYSE:PGH)

SectorBasic Materials
IndustryOil & Gas Drilling & Exploration
Market Cap$3.52B
Beta1.38

PGH stock chart

Key Metrics

1-Year Projected Earnings Per Share Growth Rate300.00%
Analysts' Rating2.30
Short Interest0.66%

Pengrowth Energy Corporation engages in the acquisition, exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas reserves in Canada. It primarily explores for crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia. As of December 31, 2011, the company had total proved plus probable reserves of 330.5 millions of barrels of oil equivalent; and had an interest in 4,099 net producing and 1,423 net non-producing oil and natural gas wells. Pengrowth Energy Corporation was founded in 1988 and is headquartered in Calgary, Canada.

6) Vantage Drilling Company (NYSEMKT:VTG)

SectorBasic Materials
IndustryOil & Gas Drilling & Exploration
Market Cap$432.68M
Beta1.96

VTG stock chart

Key Metrics

1-Year Projected Earnings Per Share Growth Rate271.40%
Analysts' Rating1.90
Short Interest6.28%

Vantage Drilling Company, through its subsidiaries, provides offshore contract drilling services to oil and natural gas companies in the United States and internationally. The company offers drilling units, related equipment, and work crews under contract to drill oil and natural gas wells. Its fleet of owned and managed drilling units comprises four jackup rigs and three drillships. The company also provides construction supervision services, as well as operates and manages drilling units owned by others. It primarily serves multinational oil and natural gas companies, government owned oil and natural gas companies, and independent oil and natural gas producers. Vantage Drilling Company was founded in 2007 and is based in Houston, Texas.

*Company profiles were sourced from Google Finance and Yahoo Finance. Financial data was sourced from Finviz on 08/24/2012.

Source: 6 Analyst-Favored Oil & Gas Stocks With Impressive Growth Projections