At the end of 2012, oil production in the state of Texas had reached a level not seen since the late 1990s. The state was cranking out more than 2.2 million barrels per day in December, accounting for roughly 31% of all U.S. oil production. This resurgence can present an opportunity for investors, and with that in mind today we will take a look at the five top producers in the great state of Texas.

The list
The most important thing about the 2012 list is that it did not look the same in 2011. The emergence of the Eagle Ford Shale in East Texas, and the application of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in certain segments of the Permian Basin has caused some changes:

Company

Avg. Daily
Production

Annual
Production

% State

Occidental Petroleum

116,911

42.7 M

8.0%

EOG Resources

109,776

40.1 M

7.5%

Pioneer Natural
Resources

62,507

22.8 M

4.3%

Apache

57,876

21.1 M

4.0%

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners

51,705

18.9 M

3.5%

Source: Texas Railroad Commission 


In 2011, all of these companies were on the list, but in a different order. Kinder Morgan ranked second then, but almost failed to rank this year, and no one outside of Occidental was posting production numbers over 52,000 barrels per day, let alone 100,000. Things will continue to change, no doubt, so let's take a closer look at what these companies are up to.

The players
Occidental Petroleum is the top producer in the Permian Basin. The company has mastered the art of using carbon dioxide in tertiary recovery to increase well production by 15%-25% in certain fields. Kinder Morgan, aside from using CO2 to produce oil and natural gas liquids, sources and distributes the gas to other producers in the play. If you're looking for a diversified operator in the Permian, that's the company for you.

Apache is another Permian player with the potential to rise up on this list next year. The chart above reflects an annual average number for daily production, but by the end of 2012 Apache was producing 134,123 barrels per day in the Permian. While some of that production was outside of Texas on the New Mexico side, the company has really ramped up its growth in the Texas shale portion of the Permian. 

Pioneer Natural Resources is double dipping, exploiting both the Permian and the Eagle Ford for its benefit. The company is really doing it all right now, as far as drilling goes. It is focused on vertical wells in the Spraberry section of the Permian, horizontal wells in the Wolfcamp region of the same play, and of course horizontal wells in the Eagle Ford. If you include the state's Barnett Shale, the company plans to spend about $2.4 billion drilling in Texas this year. 

EOG Resources is the top producer in the Eagle Ford Shale, and has no intention of relinquishing that title. The company plans to drill 400 wells there this year in an effort to ramp up its already impressive production numbers.

Foolish takeaway
We tend to think of the oil companies as a group of slow-moving behemoths, but in fact the industry is quite dynamic. A company that is on top today may not remain there tomorrow, and the Texas oil production story is a great reminder of that fact.

The fact that Kinder Morgan, a midstream company, is even on this list is sort of impressive. Turns out, this is one of the most diverse energy companies going. In The Motley Fool's premium research report on Kinder Morgan, we break down the company's growing opportunity - as well as the risks to watch out for - in order to uncover whether it's a buy or a sell. To determine whether this dividend giant is right for your portfolio, simply click here now to claim your copy of this invaluable investor's resource.

The article The Biggest Oil Winners in Texas originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Aimee Duffy has no position in any stocks mentioned. Click here to see her holdings and a short bio. If you have the energy, check out what she's keeping an eye on by following her on Twitter, where she goes by @TMFDuffy. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apache. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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