Oklahoma City, OK-based Continental Resources Inc. turned in a third quarter earnings report that beat expectations across the board, but results in Oklahoma demonstrated the company’s dominance as one of the only producers to continuously outperform in a play that has sent multiple operators running.

Continental’s quarterly output in Oklahoma’s in the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province (SCOOP) totaled 80,115 boe/d, a 27% increase over 3Q2018 production. The company’s output in the STACK, aka the Sooner Trend of  the Anadarko Basin, mostly in Canadian and Kingfisher counties) totaled 53,070 boe/d, a 5% year/year decline. Despite the slight drop in STACK production, total Oklahoma output well outpaced year-ago levels.

“Fifty percent of the oil production year-over-year has come from Oklahoma. I don't think a lot of people would have thought that,” said CEO Harold Hamm during a conference call to discuss 3Q2019 earnings.

The counter-intuitive nature of Continental’s success in Oklahoma stems from a year-long period in which other operators have exited the Anadarko Basin or significantly reduced their investment in the region.

Continental’s dominance in Oklahoma prompted questions from analysts on the call about the company’s interest in acquisitions.

“We do have good operation there. A lot of those people up there that claim to be in the STACK aren’t in the STACK. So that was one of the big discrepancies out there,” said Hamm, referring to companies that anchored in fringe areas of the production hot-bed. “It is a good play…a lot of people tried to tag on to it, even though they were outside that area all together. So yes, we're going to keep our eyes open to opportunity, and if we find a bolt-on that works, soon we'll be announcing that.”

In the STACK, Continental’s Reba Jo and Schulte oil units flowed at a combined initial 24-hour rate of 57,292 boe/d, of which 67% was oil. Combined, the two units contained 14 unit wells that flowed at an average initial 24-hour rate of 4,092 boe/d per well.

The recent hallmark of Continental’s Oklahoma production is the company’s Project SpringBoard, which beat expectations in the third quarter.

Continental topped its SCOOP Project SpringBoard oil production target for the quarter by 31%, averaging 23,641 b/d, driven by operational efficiencies, bringing wells online ahead of schedule and better-than-expected Springer well performance in rows two and three, the company said. Those wells flowed at an average initial 24-hour rate of 1,650 boe/d each, with an 80% oil cut.

Continental raised its SpringBoard oil production target for 4Q2019 by 2,000 b/d to roughly 24,000 net b/d.

“When you put it all together, it doesn't get a heck of a lot better than this,” said President Jack Stark. “We've got a lot of development sitting out in front of us. We've got probably 40% of the units in the Springer [that] still remain to be drilled and we've got about 80% of the Woodford units in the project yet to be drilled -- so a lot of headroom here to continue to grow [SpringBoard].”

Also in Oklahoma, Continental continues to grow its mineral assets with an eye towards the potential for an initial public offering (IPO) of a mineral assets entity, management said on the call.

“Year-to-date our minerals entity has seen approximately $120 million in acquisitions across SCOOP and STACK,” said CFO John Hart, noting that 80% of that spending has been reimbursed. “We expect our minerals entity to continue increasing in scale significantly over the next few years. Ultimately, we believe the minerals entity could make an attractive IPO candidate.”

To the north, Continental has transfered its SpringBoard approach to its Bakken assets, which yielded a total of 191,268 boe/d in the quarter, up by 14% from 3Q2018.

Continental expects its Bakken performance to benefit in 2020 from additional infrastructure for gas processing and takeaway that’s already in the process of ramping up.

“With what's coming on now, it's going to set us up real well going into the future,” said Rory Sabino, vice president of investor relations on the call. Hart referenced Oneok Inc.’s Elk Creek natural gas liquids pipeline as one example.

Continental reported third quarter net income of $158.2 million (43 cents/share), down by 50% from $314.2 million (84 cents) in 3Q2018.